Feels a little weird to start off talking about another club in a match which doesn’t involve us. Or does potentially involve us, seeing that if Chelsea do win the Champions League and doesn’t finish in third place. Combined that with us finishing lower than where we are now, there will be no Champions League for us next season. That and the fact they’re playing us this Saturday.
Yesterday, they achieved what we did last season. That is to beat Barcelona at home. I only saw half of the match and wouldn’t be able to give in an in-depth reason as to why and how they were able to beat the reigning European champions. What I did saw in those 45 minutes is absolute gamesmanship from one Didier Drogba. I haven’t looked through every single match report but from just the 4 UK online papers that I’ve seen, none of them were castigating Drogba for his disgraceful love of the grass. His kicking at other people but rolling around like he was the one who got kicked.
In so many ways, I hope one of our players do that this Saturday. Try to cheat and con the referee to giving the opposition a red card for absolutely nothing. Roll around on the ground writhing in pain as if he’s been shot after stamping onto the foot of a Chelsea player. I hope Robin Van Persie do it and I hope Alex Song does it. Then we’ll see whether the media will castigate an Arsenal player(s) for such disgraceful act. If they don’t, I’ll shut up about this.
Anyway, moving on to matters more Arsenal and nothing is more us than when injury comes into play. Mikel Arteta has an ankle ligament damage which could see him miss the rest of the season. It’s a big loss. He’s the one who holds the construction together. We can’t defend without him, we can’t attack without him. Such is the influence of the former Everton favourite that I’m beginning to change from being confident about Saturday’s match to being terrified about it.
More than most, Arteta provides the experience and the leadership on and off the pitch. As is proven by Andre Santos acknowledging Arteta’s role in helping him to settle down in London. Our midfield on Monday looked lost without him and there’s no telling whether the same chaos will be repeated this weekend. While Arteta, Song and Aaron Ramsey has worked to some degree this season; the combination of Song, Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky has not shine to the same extent.
Of course, with Abou Diaby featuring the closed door friendly game against Oman and completing 45 minutes, he could also be in the frame for a game against Chelsea. However, I’d rather we err on the side of caution with this one. We did pushed him on rather too hastily away at Liverpool (which incidentally also due to an injury to Arteta) and lost him again immediately after that. I’d rather see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain there for the reason that I do not want to see Diaby breaking down again. Francis Coquelin could also be back but having played no game since, it is hard to envisage him being ahead of Diaby in the pecking order to return from injury.
For all our worry everywhere else on the pitch, one department hasn’t been the main talking point this season. Fine, wasn’t the talking point for all but 3 months of this season. That’s the goalkeeping one. Wojciech Szczesny installed as the number 1 for this season and has proved that he does deserve that spot. You can sense the growing maturity in him as well. It’s not an easy job, let’s not beat around the bush here. You’ll hardly find goalkeepers at the top clubs at such a young age, playing so many games. Gianluigi Buffon, Hugo Lloris and Iker Casillas are exception rather than the rule.
Szczesny may have gotten the beat ahead of his Polish friend Lukasz Fabianski but he’s not resting on his laurels yet. The former is frank and honest with the assessment of his game. The start of 2012 was not the greatest period in his short Arsenal career but that is not something he hides from. If anything, it does tell him that there’s still a very long way to go for him in football. He’ll be with us for years, not because he wants to win trophies with us but because he’s someone whom we can finally say, is able to continue the illustrious trend of remarkable goalkeepers that we’ve had at Arsenal.
Finally, let’s end this on a high. We’ve won best groundsman of the year award. Many congratulations to the team at Arsenal. The way we play depends a lot on the conditions of the pitch. Zipping the ball about and moving it at a faster pace relies on the pitch to be in top, slick conditions. When you consider the difference in our game at San Siro to the return leg at the Grove, one can safely say that the pitch plays a very big part.
Enjoy the rest of your Thursdays, later I’m off to football and let’s see if I like the grass as much as Drogba.