Tomorrow sees us take on Blackburn in the Premier League and it’s a game we must simply win. No questions asked, it’s a game where we need to take the 3 points. Last season, we lost up at Ewood Park and it’s more than essential that we prove to everyone that we’ve come a long way since last season. Our new defensive quartet of Vermaelen, Djourou, Squillaci and Koscielny are being judged right now – and the previous lot of Silvestre, Gallas and Campbell weren’t good enough. Tomorrow will be a test of our new defensive unit, as well as our mental resolve. Has our defence improved since last season? Has our team defensive unit improved? Are we going to be first to the 50/50′s? Are we going to be sharper attacking-wise?
A look at team news ahead of tomorrow’s game, and it looks like it will be too early for new signing Sebastian Squillaci, whom is training today, but will only feature after the International break. That means Laurent Koscielny returns after his one match suspension to partner Thomas Vermaelen at the back. Johan Djourou has not recovered from his hamstring injury, so will be missing tomorrow, and that means Alex Song can revert back to his defensive midfield position – my preferred position for the Cameroonian.
With Song back in midfield, Arsene will have to choose between Denilson, Abou Diaby, Thomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Cesc Fabregas for the two other midfield roles, and I can’t see him not selecting the captain, who is now back to full fitness and should be raring to go. The third spot could go to any of the other three – personally, Rosicky’s form means it should be his, but being an away game with a Sam Allardyce team, you can bet your bottom dollar than Diaby will be in based on his height alone…
Up front is a tricky one – Van Persie is now fit, but Maroune Chamakh has been leading the line so far this season. With no midweek games, Arshavin and Walcott should be ready and poised for starts too, which is a bit of a dilemma – who does Arsene start out of Van Persie and Chamakh? My gut feeling is Van Persie will get the nod… so I’d expect the following line up:
Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Clichy
Diaby – Song
Walcott – Cesc – Arshavin
With a bench of Fabianski, Eboue, Denilson, Wilshere, Rosicky, Vela and Chamakh. With Djourou not being included due to his hamstring injury.
Injuries to Bendtner and Nasri look like both players will only return by the end of September and Arsene commented on them both saying:
“Three to four weeks. Nasri will have a battle [to be back first]. He could be in front of Bendtner even because he is recovering very quickly. Djourou is fit to be in the squad but he is not completely there yet. Cesc and Van Persie are back and available normally [for Blackburn].”
Koscielny did give all Arsenal fans some hope that he has what it takes
“I like one-on-one challenges because they are a physical, technical and mental challenge. It’s a big battle — part bluff, part judgement. My aim is never to let the striker open on his good foot to go towards the goal. You have to be very intelligent to win those sorts of challenges. I work hard and never give up. On man marking, I don’t let the striker breathe. Technically, I have always worked hard because, especially at Arsenal, I am the player who starts the attack so I need to have quality in my passing. I have improved a lot on how I read the game and anticipate what my opponent will do and where the ball will go.”
Even though I’ve only really seen him against Liverpool, I do like the look of Koscielny – he does look determined and does look like he is raring to prove himself at the top level.
Outside of tomorrow’s game, yesterday saw the draw for the Champions League and saw us drawn with Shakhtar Donetsk, SC Braga and FK Partizan Belgrade. Thanks goes to Debs for posting an update on all the groups in my absence yesterday. My first reaction was – yes, we’ve not drawn any hard teams, but my next reaction was – damn, we have to travel quite far for these trips. The fact that we’ve not won away in any of the countries that those three teams are from doesn’t bode well, and of course, we have 3 away games after our 3 champions league away games… Ouch.
Arsene spoke on the draw saying:
“I think it is more difficult than it looks because we have Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga who are two very good teams. Also there is a lot of travel too. We will be favourites but we start one week after the internationals when the players will have been away. We have more experience than the other teams but Shakhtar have some experience themselves and people forget Braga knocked out Sevilla by winning both games [in the Play-Offs]. I am very confident of course and I am sure we will come out of it. But I don’t think we have an easy group. We’ll need to be on our toes.”
The Shakhtar Donetsk tie could see Eduardo play against us twice and of course, have a proper farewell at the Emirates – I’d be interested to see how his fitness and form have come along since his move, and it will be good to see him back at the Grove, one last time…
There we have it folks, a big game tomorrow… it’s Adios for now!