Obviously the biggest news coming out from yesterday was the Champions League draw. It is almost inevitable that we’ll draw Barcelona. I watched the draw and knew it would end up that way what with Shalke and Bayern being drawn out so early. But all that will have to wait until February or at least until another international break. There’s another game today which can easily be drowned out by the trip to Nou Camp.
Stoke are the visitors for today and I’m hoping this will still be a football match and not otherwise. They are by far the most physical team out there in the Premier League. They have a very straight forward style of lumping the ball high. They may have Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant but their job is still to deliver crosses into the box.
Is is not a tactic that is alien to Arsene Wenger or Arsenal. Neither is it something that we are comfortable dealing with in recent times. Yet, it is a tactic which is so obvious, we’ll be kicking ourselves in the heels if nothing was prepared on our front to counter that today. Players who are more physical and maybe even taller will have more chance to feature in this game.
Given the latest injury update from Wenger, here’s my prediction of the starting line-up;
Having recovered from their respective injuries, a home game against Stoke looks to be a very good place for Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie to slot back into the first eleven. Both looked out of place when substituted into the game at Old Trafford but could very well get a start today. Wenger might also consider resting Jack Wilshere and save him the extra bruises that he might get from Stoke. With Denilson in the side, it does give Arsenal a much more solid midfield.
There has to be a point in the season when Wenger looks at Andrey Arshavin’s overall performance and decides the the goals and assists are no longer good enough reasons to put him in the side. The little Russian’s contribution in numbers is very very good but he is also the type of player to frustrate fans in most games. Lacking energy and not getting involve is some of the accusations being thrown at him, unfortunately, most of it are true as well.
I’m hoping RvP replaces Arshavin in the starting line-up. Marouane Chamakh brings something different to the Arsenal side and we need him in the side as well. Wenger will have to find a way to fit both of them in the same side. One way to do that is to slot RvP in the right wide attacking role. Though, there should be no restriction for RvP to stick to the flanks only.
One more thing we should not forget is what this game means to Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman may not be at the club at the present moment and we all have to understand the reason is because of the opposition for today. It is because Stoke employs the brainless thug that is Ryan Shawcross, that Ramsey is now on loan at Nottingham Forest after missing the best part of the year recuperating with a double fracture. It is because Stoke’s neanderthal manager, Tony Pulis that Ramsey was perpetrated as the culprit and not the victim, even though his leg was hanging from a very weird angle.
So, in remembrance of that. Let’s give them hell. Let’s give Stoke the abuse that they deserve. Let’s give Shawcross a visit to the Grove that he will never ever forget. That part, us fans will do it. The players will do their part as well. That is to win the game and show the fans that the match meant just as much to them. Oh, there’s also the chance to return to the top of the pile.
Here’s to a rip-roaring Arsenal win and 300 nutmegs on Shawcross. Enjoy.