Today we return to the scene of our triumph (if you could call it that) last season. Martin Fulop might want to claim all credits but we still have to put shots at him for him to gift us goals. Andre Santos and Yossi Benayoun, 2 of the goalscorers from last season, are no longer with us for one reason or another. The different team will have go in search of the same result.
Apart from Zoltan Gera who is out with a long term injury and the spat with Peter Odemwingie, Steve Clarke has a pretty much healthy (update : Mulumbu is suspended, that video of him getting sent off is worth watching) squad to pick from. WBA are placed 8th in the league table and has every chance of securing an Europa League spot if results go their way until the end of the season. However, recent results would suggest that they have their minds on their holiday destinations in June.
Having said that, I’m sure it would not take much for Clarke to raise the mood and spirit of his team. Our visit alone, is enough to ensure that the players want to perform better today. While we have certainly regressed in recent seasons, the name Arsenal is still a big draw and many players get lifted when lining up opposite us.
The quirk of the fixture list, sees us as the first of the three teams chasing the two Champions League spots, to play. We have to win to put pressure on them. For them to sleep on the pressure overnight, before their own matches tomorrow. Due to their involvement in the Europa League, we will have consecutive weeks to put that kind of pressure on them.
From our side, the big miss continues to be Jack Wilshere. I know that we’ve done well in recent weeks but if anyone thinks that having Wilshere back in the side won’t improve our team, then I don’t want to ever hear their opinions. His absence could well be because he has problem with the recovery. Or it was a calculated decision from the management to give him some time off (with one eye on the fixture list) and see that he comes back stronger for the end of the season run-in.
Theo Walcott is also not available but one could look at his lack of contribution in recent games and feel that he will not be missed. I’m pretty much on the fence for this particular player. There’s no doubt of his improvement, especially in front of goal but his recent (or Wenger’s) strategy of staying away from the flanks, have not helped to better his goal statistics.
In his place, Gervinho has come in and done a decent job. The confidence based player that is the Ivorian will surely relish the opportunity to play again after his contribution with 3 goals, last weekend. We don’t have another player of his ilk in the squad. By that, I don’t mean the profligacy in front of goal nor the lack of ball control. I meant his direct running. I’m yet to be convinced that he has become a much better player but time will tell on that.
Fabianski — Gibbs — Koscielny — Mertesacker — Sagna — Arteta — Ramsey — Rosicky — Gervinho — Giroud — Cazorla
Because of that, Lukas Podolski looks set for a prolong stay on the bench. The German international has had limited involvement these days and I’m not quite sure what happen there. Personally, I’m only slightly less sceptical about Podolski’s qualities than about Gervinho’s. However, his absence might tell a different story. Perhaps one relating to his fitness level and the fact that he almost always never finishes any game. That he has gone through that for most part of the season, makes me wonder whether he has been carrying an injury for the longest time and it has now taken a toll on him.
Apparently Arsene Wenger is a little bit under the weather but I’m hoping he’ll still be around on the bench. It’s not like he consistently barks orders to the players. Any instruction can be passed on to Steve Bould and the former central defender does possess the vocal capability to translate those messages to the rest of the team.
We’ve now equalled our best winning run of this season with the three wins on the trot. Time to break and improve on that record. Up The Arsenal!