It was this fixture last year that the wheels came off. Well, at least partially. Ok, almost completely but only for poor Phillipe Senderos. If you remember, Villa came to the Emirates in the match directly after the sickening tackle by Taylor had struck down Eduardo. Travelling Villa fans showed their intelligence by chanting sickening songs comparing Eduardo to Heather Mills. This in turn sparked fights, ejections, and a tranche of condemnation by all thinking people on the planet.
Furthering the psychic pain that Arsenal felt at the time, Senderos scored an own goal in the 27th minute, was sacrificed in the 80th minute and was only spared blushes by an injury time goal by Bendtner. Arsenal recovered enough to go to the San Siro and put two past their Italian hosts but really this fixture set a course for the season that would see us crash out of all three competitions. Further, this match was the penultimate last straw for Senderos (he officially broke the camel’s back against Liverpool in the Champions League one month later). He would never recover the form that Arsenal supporters and the boss expected and during the summer was dispatched to Italy to rot on the bench.
Getting rid of Senderos haven’t cured Arsenal’s defensive woes and the back four will need to be on the watch for Ashley Young’s pace and ability to put in a cross, not to mention his ability from set pieces. Sagna has the most direct responsibility here but whoever Arsene puts in the center of defense will need to rise to the occasion and put in some clearances. If Almunia is still effected by the knock he took against United then I would expect Fabianski to come in and show the same youthful vigor he showed against Wigan and be the main Arsenal player to handle corners, crosses, and set pieces. If Almunia is healthy then that responsibility lies with Gallas and Silvestre. That’s right, I don’t expect Toure to get any starts for ther time being; the boss clearly thinks he’s to blame for Arsenal’s aerial woes.
Well… lol… Wenger just passed both Almunia and Adebayor as fit. Oh well, I was kind of hoping to see Fabianski in the sticks but it looks like England’s Future Number One will get the start; Adebayor is a game time decision.
The rest of the squad picks itself, really. Everyone is rested and I don’t see any reason why Arsenal won’t play the same squad they played against United. We will probably see Vela, Wilshere, and Ramsey on the bench and I suspect that Arsene will start Bendtner and bring on Vela and Ade late in the match if Arsenal don’t have a lead.
Either way I’m looking for a modicum of revenge here for last season’s game. Plus Arsenal really need to put in a good performance and show some consistency after the win against United. I would like to see the first team play with the fire that the kids had on Tuesday but I don’t expect it. I expect that the players will play their measured, moving, passing type of game.
WOO HOOO! It’s a 3pm kickoff over in England which means that we get a 7am (PST) kickoff over here! The match is live on Fox Soccer Channel and I will be doing the liveblogging thing from home, so stop by if you’re into that sort of thing. Local fans will have to wait until 9am if they want to catch the match at Doyle’s because they are playing some Liverpool match at 7 or something. Meh… I’ll be at home with some sausages and stuff.
Ok, that’s it, see you all tomorrow.