Games are coming thick and fast. Just a little less than 48 hours ago, we played Huddersfield in the FA Cup. Next up is the league home game against Everton. Luckily enough for us, our squad have largely managed to keep fit and another rotation will be expected tonight with what is considered our first eleven returning to the starting line-up.
Samir Nasri will of course be the big miss for us, at least for the next foreseeable weeks but otherwise we’ve managed to avoid further injuries. Those doubts surrounding Denilson notwithstanding, as I doubt he would’ve started tonight anyway. Nasri’s absence will be another shot up the arm of Andrey Arshavin.
The little Russian has been out of the preferred first team side for a good month now and this is his route back into the side. Though he has not shown the same sparkle in the cup games, I think we can all appreciate his efforts in those games. His last-ditched block in the Huddersfield game prevented us from going out of the competition. Arsene Wenger will be pleased that his hands were forced to re-introduced Arshavin back into the side rather than relegating someone else over the Russian.
Typically, the home games against Everton are always tough. Luckily for us, one of their aerial threat will be missing tonight. Tim Cahill has only just completed a demanding Asian Cup tournament and looks likely to miss out tonight. Even if he plays, the energy levels are expected to be lower. I believe Everton will suffer from the departure of Steven Pienaar. I’m not sure how many games he will get at Stratford Hotspurs but he is absolutely influential to what David Moyes wants from his team.
Another good advantage for us to have is that Everton played pretty much their first team side in a hard fought FA Cup draw against Chelsea on Saturday. Compared that to our players who largely will be fresh and ready to go, there is valid reasons for optimism tonight. Everton have not won away at Arsenal for over 15 years now.
Add to that the fact that we haven’t conceded a single goal in all the league games played in 2011, you’ll be hard pressed to predict any result other than an Arsenal win. Laurent Koscielny has played a big part in that run of clean sheet but even he recognizes that there will always be room for improvement. He wants to avoid the cards as much as possible. Two red cards already this season and it is clear we cannot afford for him to get another one at this point of the season. Not because it might cost us the game but also because Wenger has not made any recruitment in the last day of the transfer window.
Even though Wenger spoke about the possibility of recalling some of his players that are currently out on loan, the fact that he loaned out Kyle Bartley to Glasgow Rangers, makes his directions somewhat confusing. I’ll be fine if Bartley is recalled to be our 5th choice central defender. He is big and commanding from what I’ve managed to see. We don’t expect him to play every game anyway. Just the odd games where the others are injured or suspended or rested. Seems like a strange decision to me this one.
Those who were on the bench at the weekend are likely to return to the starting line-up and I’m expecting the same side that played against Chelsea and West Ham, with the exception of Arshavin coming in for Nasri.
Robin Van Persie is our form man of the moment and we would looking at him to get us the goal(s) tonight. It is hard not to be confident about this game. While we looked out of ideas in the cup games, the league form is very much different. The attitude and desire also looked different between the league and cup sides. I know we are still 5 points behind Manchester United but we can should worry about our results first, United later.
Here’s to a good win before we head to the Caroll-ess Newcastle at the weekend.