Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that bank holiday feeling.
Smashing out nine hour days (commute not included) can really take it out of you I’m sure you’ll all agree, and there’s no better feeling than an oncoming weekend of football. We’d better make the most of it before a spectacularly ugly “international break” rears its head, or an “international break” rears its spectacularly ugly head, which ever displeases you most.
So, it’s Stoke this weekend, and I think we only played them about 5 games ago if we include last season. I don’t know about you, but this fixture always evokes a certain Lord of the Rings-esque, “Elves against the Orcs”, type feeling. It’s the beautiful against the ugly, the successful against the failed, the good against the bad, one style being a gross perversion of the other. That’s about as biased a view as one can hold if you ask me, but it’s what I’m known for.
Delving straight into team news and we have little difference from last week. Wenger mentioned in his press conference that Koscielny is still injured and resting, while our longer term infirms are all still infirm. Oxlaide is apparently ready to make an appearance however, which is a boost to the squad for sure. In the last game there wasn’t too much replacement material in the wide areas after Podolski and Walcott left the pitch. While Wenger has recently stated that Oxlaide officially comes under the CM label nowadays, he certainly has his uses out wide and can provide a huge injection of carbs off the bench. With Kos out for another week it all but guarantees Mertesacker a starting place for the second week running, no bad thing in my opinion.
I’d like to see a line up resembling:
Szcz, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Diaby, Arteta, Cazorla, Gervinho, Podolski, Giroud.
I think that while Jenkinson hasn’t quite blended with the teams attacking movements as yet, he had a solid defensive game last week and can offer this team a traditional right back, defending first and crossing second. I think the middle 3 pick themselves while Oxlaide regains match fitness and Rosicky and Wilshere are still injured. Wenger had better get in a decent supply of Lemsip because he’ll have quite the midfield headache when those three are all fit.
Walcott is stalling worse than I do when behind the wheel (contract extension wise); while he has unplayable qualities in certain situations, and I’d rather see him at Arsenal than anywhere else, he showed far less desire than Gervinho did to take people on and create threatening situations. Starting Pod out wide and dropping Walcott to the bench could remind him that he isn’t the guaranteed starter he might think he is. Giroud up top could be the battering ram we need to unlock this Stoke defence, much less the key. His physical qualities ought to give us a presence up front that we have lacked in recent seasons (read height and muscle and/or unparalleled handsomeness from that), and the sooner all the new boys are used to starting together the better.
If we can keep them from opening the scoring on Sunday I’ve no doubt that we’ll walk away with the three points. These affairs tend to be tighter than a tightrope walking, tight wearing tightrope-ist, so I think one goal will swing it either way. The ball will spend a lot of time in the air on Sunday, so we’ll need to see a dominant display from our 2 internationally renowned centre halves.
While I’m a big fan of Santos, I think his cavalier attitude towards defending would mean that Gibbs would always start in this fixture, and Wenger seems to have learned that just because a Brazilian calls himself a left back, it doesn’t necessarily mean that his. Wenger did say that Santos may make the squad, but apparently it depends on his behaviour because he’s still on the naughty step.
Anyhow, regardless of who starts where, I’m confident that we’ll bag out first 3 points of the season (driving licenses not included Santos…ahem).
Can’t wait boys.
Up the Arsenal.
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