This season has been a mixed bag of goodies – well, goodies, baddies and randomness. But throughout the season, our two Achilles heels have been our away form and playing any decent team. 3 of our 4 losses have been top six teams – United, Liverpool and Sp*rs.
Away at Chelsea, it sounds like a tough one for us, but considering our recent improvements, we should go into the game with a bit more confidence than previous games. It’s Chelsea first and then Marseille at home on Tuesday. The boss spoke about the two games earlier today:
“That’s why it is such an important game for us at Chelsea. We play two cup games in the next two games – one at Chelsea and one on Tuesday night that can qualify us as well [for the Champions League knockout stage]. So let’s go step by step. Chelsea is a very important game for us but still I believe the only way to succeed is to focus on the quality of our performance, play our game well and the consequence is that you have a chance to win the game.”
Chelsea will be favourites for sure, they are at home, and have just come off the back off a league defeat to QPR, and an unconvincing win against Everton in the Carling Cup. They are a team full of quality players, but due to their recent bout of sending offs, they will be without Drogba and Bosingwa – although having the likes of Fernando Torres as backup shows the strength of their team.
Team news for us sees the surprise return of Thomas Vermaelen, who is available for the game, despite coming off with a calf strain against Bolton midweek – there has been a lot of debate whether to break up the Koscielny-Mertersacker partnership but after listening to Arsene, I don’t think the vice captain will start.
We had good news about Vermaelen in the game against Bolton the other night. It was just cramp [that forced him to come off] so that’s good news. He will certainly be in the squad at Chelsea. I don’t know yet whether he will start, I have to think about that. I feel physically he is not completely ready because he had problems to finish the game against Bolton, but he is close. We play two games in three days and I will have to evaluate the whole situation. But Thomas always wants to play.
I think Arsene is more likely not to gamble on TV5, but looking at the opposition, he and Koscielny would probably be a better combination. Torres, Anelka and Sturridge all have pace and are tricky which may cause Mertersacker a few problems. In other positive injury news, reports from the manager confirmed that Carl Jenkinson is back training – weeks ahead of schedule – but perhaps not quite ready for this game…
I will know more [about Jenkinson's fitness] after training on Friday. Jenkinson was alright yesterday, but I don’t know if I will take him or not. It depends how well he does in training today.
Digesting the current injuries and injury returnees, my guestimated line up is:
Djourou – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Santos
Arteta – Song
Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho
With a strong bench of Fabianski, Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Arshavin, Park, Chamakh
Arshavin was very impressive behind the striker in the Carling Cup, but we probably won’t see a repeat of that against Chelsea. We may need him deployed in that role against Marseille at home instead. Arshavin seems to be better at home than away at the moment.
It will be a very hard game tomorrow, and with the performances against bigger teams this season not being very good, we are underdogs. But that’s the way we like it – and let’s hope we spring a surprise…
Til tomorrow… Come on you Gooners!!