As anaesthetics wear off, I find myself getting more and more pump up for tonight’s big game. Chelsea arrives at Ashburton to seek to extend their lead at the top of the table to 11 points. After last weekend’s disaster against Sunderland, this is really a must win match for us. More than 10 points will be a gap to big even at this stage of the league campaign.
There’s a whole host of injury problems besetting Arsenal at the moment. Today it was confirmed that RVP will be out for another 5 months. Further checks upon his return to the club showed that there is a need for surgery to be done and that leaves him back in training starting only in April which effectively ends the season for him. Kieran Gibbs finally gets his metatarsal done and will be out for 3 months. William Gallas has a big bump on his eye but should otherwise be alright for this game, an after-effect of his accidental clash with Andrey Arshavin’s very very hard head. Of the others, only Denilson has returned since the last Premier League match. With that I think the lineup will resemble something like this;
The return of Denilson now offers us the solidarity in midfield, something we pretty much missed at Sunderland last weekend and also since the injury to Abou Diaby. Him and Song will be absolutely vital today to contain the midfield of Chelsea who can now count on a returning Lampard and also Ballack to drive them. These latter 2 will be the ones to watch from the opposite side of the pitch can can do us harm. Set-piece will also be a worry with the kind of height that Chelsea possesses these days, which is also the reason I think why Wenger will plump for Rosicky instead of a much much shorter Arshavin.
The left back position is a worry as I fully expect Ancelotti to put the nippy Joe Cole there. While the Englishmen is not one of the world’s great but he can create a little bit of magic of his own that can really hurt us. With both Clichy and Gibbs now injured and Traore looking out of sorts last weekend, it will be far too dangerous to allow Silvestre to take his place opposite of Cole. Eboue’s pace will be a far better choice as it allows him the chance to recover should Cole gets past him in the first place.
While I’m still not entirely assured with Eduardo playing the RVP role, I think he will still get the call today and another shot at a permanent place. I doubt he will get any change out of Terry or Carvalho today. Vela did well on Tuesday and could be call upon to do the job if required. However, the way that we could get through will not depend on Eduardo or Vela being central, but rather the versatility of the front trio in interchanging positions and supporting one another. Without the physical robustness of a natural center-forward, will need to work in tandem in a much closer proximity than expecting knock-on from headers.
So far, we’ve won everything at home this season. Ashburton Grove is fast becoming a fortress for Arsenal, the way Highbury once was for us. Long may that continue after today.
Come on you Gunners!!!!