It was a good night for Arsenal last night, even though none of the games involved us. Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City all dropped points in their Boxing Day fixtures. A win for us tonight will see us leapfrog over Chelsea and go level on points with Tottenham (depending on the outcomes of their own match against Norwich). Mick McCarthy bring his Wolverhampton Wanderers side to the Grove tonight and they are the clear underdogs.
Wolves are currently in 17th position, just one spot off the drop zone. With all 3 teams in the relegation zone in Wigan, Blackburn and Bolton all played yesterday, 17th is the lowest Wolves can go after tonight’s clash. Wolves has only taken points home from two of their 8 Premier League trips away from the Molineux and that was at the start of the season. Beating Blackburn and drawing with Aston Villa in the month of August.
Steven Fletcher is the leading league scorer for Wolves with 6 goals and the next best is Stephen Hunt who has half that tally. The obvious creative force in McCarthy’s side is Matt Jarvis who has racked up 3 assists thus far. Compared that to Arsenal who has Robin Van Persie with 16 goals on his own and sharing the assist lead with Gervinho and Alex Song at 5 a piece, shows the difference between this two sides.
McCarthy will be without the service of Jamie O’Hara for this game. The midifielder who has connection of both side of the North London divide, is out undergoing hernia surgery. I’m glad that he’s out. O’Hara may not be consistent but certainly has the pedigree and the shooting capability to trouble us. David Edwards and Jody Craddock are the other ones unavailable for Wolves.
As for us, there’s no need to mention the entire list of injured players. Otherwise you will say that I’m only doing it to make my article look longer. To cut to the point and be exact, we have no returnee from previously known absentee. Perhaps there’s a slight chance of Johan Djourou being ready but with the fixtures coming thick and fast, we don’t have to risk him tonight.
It is also because of the tight fixtures, Arsene Wenger will probably have to rotate his squad to ensure that the current fit players remains injury free. It would probably be a mix and match team for the next 3 games. Which is why it is good that we have several core players at the spine of the team. Thomas Vermaelen/Laurent Koscielny in defence, Alex Song/Mikel Arteta in midfield and Robin Van Persie/Robin Van Persie is attack. Ok, fine. We have no other viable options for RvP in attack.
I don’t think we can afford to have both players playing this one and both player missing the next game, in each area respectively. While it’s a good working partnership that has seen us recover and move back up the league standings, they would probably have to be split. This is my best guess at the starting line-up;
In his latest press conference, Wenger spoke about the need for the fringe players like Andrey Arshavin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Park Ju Young to show that they have what it takes. Some to make the step up to first team football, while others to rediscover their confidence to return to first team football. Arsenal is a football club that thrives on on-field success, there is no room for passengers.
I guess the idea of Wenger speaking specifically about players is to try to give them the encouragement and boost their confidence. Arshavin for one looks like a lost man at the moment. This was a man that took the fight to Liverpool literally on his own but can’t be depended to put in a decent pass now. He has fallen from a very high spot and the time is nigh for him for shape up or ship out.
For the other two, it’s probably because Wenger knows that they would be crucial in the coming month or two. This is of course due to the fact that Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh will be leaving for the African Nation’s Cup tournament soon. They will surely get a few games here and there and will need to prove that deserve a place in the first team.
The reason for my choice of starters has a lot to do with RvP. If he plays, I think we could definitely rest Theo Walcott and Gervinho. If he doesn’t, then having a bit a familiarity in the wide areas could be crucial to find our supply of goal(s). Yossi Benayoun must be itching for a starting place and could very well be rewarded for his winning goal at Villa Park.
Anything other than 9 points over the next 7 days would be very disappointing end to the year. Given the form of both teams, we are definitely the odds-on favourites to win tonight. Let’s kick on boys.
Up The Arsenal!!!