The game in hand. The refuge of those looking at the gap between us and the top four. Win the game in hand and it is down to four points. It is almost upon us. The importance of the result is becoming more evident, and very real.
The pre-match presser quickly developed into a list of those who may or may not be available to start, and a fruitless inquisition into our transfer plans for the remainder of the window. The two topics blended together perfectly when Arsene was quizzed about the absence of Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin.
“You’ve got a bit of an issue in that defensive (midfield) position.”
“We have. I agree with you…It is a position where we are short…It is a position where we are a bit vulnerable at the moment”
I’m not sure what Emmanuel Frimpong would have thought as he heard those words, but we all know exactly what the manager meant. It’s an area which has prompted numerous debates in recent weeks and months. The concession is welcome. If only we had acted a little quicker to address that acknowledged vulnerability in this window. Let us hope that the search for a ‘super quality’ reinforcement is fruitful.
On the plus side we should have Lukas Podolski back in contention, and possibly Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. If the German is considered fit to start then it is likely that Santi Cazorla will return to the midfield role with Jack Wilshere dropping back to partner either Abou Diaby or Aaron Ramsey.
West Ham do not appear to be as confident as the side we rather impressively humbled 3-1 at Upton Park back in October. James Collins is a doubt, and Andy Carroll is a long-term absentee. With Marouane Chamakh ineligible that means a start for Carlton Cole. He and Kevin Nolan will provide a physical challenge for a central defensive pairing that may be exposed to a little more pressure given who is in front of them.
We know we will have to be alert to set pieces and direct deliveries into the middle. Whilst generally those are areas in which we have improved this season there are still the occasional lapses of concentration. West Ham are not just about the long ball however. In his current funk Bacary Sagna will face a stiff challenge against Matt Jarvis. It is a test of his mobility, a real question mark since his return from a second leg break.
For all that I would expect Theo Walcott to produce another fine performance against the Irons. If we can get some quality crosses from the flanks then Olivier Giroud could also come to the fore. The ‘holic pound has to be based on my belief hat we will prove too mobile for the visitors. I’m on 2-0 to the Arsenal, and if you fancy a punt with Gunners Gaming check out their latest competition by clicking on the banner above. For every £10 wagered with Gunners Gaming between now and February 16, you will receive (subject to conditions) an entry into the prize draw. The winner, drawn February 18, will receive four places to watch Arsenal v Aston Villa Premiership game in the comfort of the Gunners Gaming box. Prize includes food and complimentary drinks. That sounds like a top afternoon out to me.
For those going to the match tomorrow you may care to invest in a copy of the latest Gooner fanzine. Unless I have ended up on the editorial room floor I should be in there, as if you don’t suffer enough reading this blog!
Also, if you are a member and didn’t catch this weeks Fans Forum on Arsenal Player then I would recommend catching up with the highlights of the show. As you might expect there were some callers speaking from the heart following the Chelsea game, and the excellent Matt Scott from the Telegraph was alongside Tom Watt. To those who liken official productions to Pravda this was proof that the club can and do present a range of opinions on occasion. Whilst I didn’t agree with every word that was said, the passion of the Arsenal people who presented and contributed to the show was uplifting, even if the message being conveyed sometimes wasn’t.
Have a good one ‘holics.
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