It's been a hectic week, starting last Saturday with the 4-1 win over Wigan, continuing midweek with the 3-0 win over Villareal. We've had all sort of injury problems, mainly and only to our defence, and tomorrow sees another big game in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea... and breathe...
News from Arsenal is that Sagna has not recovered from the flu that saw him miss the mid-week game. Gibbs may recover and will have a fitness test in the morning, but it looks like we will have to use Alex Song in defence.
“It’s bad news, Sagna is not back,” confirmed Wenger at his pre-match press conference.
“He’s still sick. He came to the training ground but he feels very weak and he lost some weight. He’s not right. It is a virus, we don’t know really what kind of virus it is but it’s weakening him.
“I must say that we are now short in numbers but in quality we are still strong and Gibbs has shown that. But he has as well some fitness problems which we have to assess tomorrow. He did have a little test today but not a very strong one.
“We are now short because we many players out at the back. When you consider that Gallas, Djourou and Clichy together, and Almunia, are all out, that’s a lot in the defensive part of our squad.”
Let’s take a look at the possible formations:
Eboue – Toure – Song – Silvestre
Walcott – Denilson – Cesc – Arshavin
Adebayor – Van Persie
This formation allows us to have a more attacking line up and of course sees us accomodate Walcott, Arshavin, Adebayor, Van Persie and Cesc – but the question would be – is this line up too attacking for a game against Chelsea. They are very likely to field a 5 man midfield and if we go head to head with a 4 man midfield, will we be able to cope.
4-5-1 / 4-3-3
Eboue – Toure – Song – Silvestre
Walcott – Denilson – Cesc – Diaby – Arshavin
Of course the 4-5-1 which turns into a 4-3-3 is an interesting option. Van Persie would be the man sacrificed and if you remember the game against Chelsea this season, he’s the man who did all the damage. This formation would see us match Chelsea’s formation, and allow more freedom to Arshavin and Walcott. It’s an interesting dilemma to have, all of a sudden, we have so many options. Of course, there is Nasri too and Bendtner who both (well Nasri anyway) have a massive shout for a starting position.
I’d like to see us play an attacking line up, I’d go with the 4-4-2. Arshavin and Walcott and definitely capable of defending when required and Van Persie can drop into midfield to make up the numbers if required.
Looking at the game, Van Persie has been the main person in the news so far and he’s been talking up Hiddink and what he’s acheived – and also been looking ahead to the game and the defensive problems that Chelsea have been facing.
“He is unbelievable. Everything he does turns to gold,” the 25-year-old said. “The first thing I thought when he came was ‘oh no’, Chelsea are still in the FA Cup and Champions League and he will win something.
“When I saw him two years ago in Holland, because we use the same physio sometimes, I asked to see his hands. He said ‘yes, why?’ I said that everything he puts his hand on turns to gold. He was laughing. He is fantastic.”
“In the last two games they conceded seven goals,” Van Persie said. “It’s a bit much but they have fantastic strikers and covered everything up. If you look at Drogba, he is back again. He had some problems with his body and was injured for a while but he is back on track again and looks really sharp.
“Of course earlier in the season we showed we can do that damage against them. It will be a tight game again. They will play 11 fantastic players and we will also do that. We are both not scared to play. For me personally it will be a fantastic experience to play at Wembley because it will be my first time there. I’m looking forward to that.”
VP also commented out our sucession of games against big teams and said:
“It is a massive six weeks – unbelievable,” he said. “Over the last two and a half months we didn’t have massive games – a few occasionally.
“But we have had a massive game against Villarreal now there is a massive game against Chelsea and then Liverpool. We have Manchester United three times in six weeks, Chelsea two or three times, Liverpool once. I can’t wish for more.
“But we know the differences will be very small in winning and losing. Look at John Terry in the Champions League Final last season. He was so unlucky to miss the penalty but that meant Man United were the winner.
“When you are in the Final it comes down to little things. It’s up to us to come there. We can call ourselves one of the best four teams in Europe and that is about right. Now we want to move on and win it. Definitely.”
A mutual respect between the two, Hiddink will know all about Van Persie.
And Cescy was in the news too today, talking about the Carling Cup final in 2007 and whether he’s ready to get some revenge on Chelsea.
“I do not like the word revenge,” said the 21-year-old. “That game was two years ago and we have played Chelsea since.
“We have beaten them a few times, at home and away this year, so we know we can do it but it will be really difficult as I like them very much.
“We don’t expect to score four like Liverpool this week. That was a freak result, they are a very strong team and they are recognised for being strong at the back. They have key players like Lampard and Drogba who make them tick.”
So much going on in terms of tomorrow’s game, no time to reflect back on the Champions League. I’ll be back tomorrow with more team news and pre-game analysis.