Good morning, as usual, late blog here owing to Le Boss’ pre-match press conference and me wanting to make sure I have the freshest and most accurate data before going to press. Today, in particular, I’m very happy I waited.
Celtic are the obstacle and the target is Champions League qualification, but until the window closes on the 31st, roughly half of all the questions are going to be about transfers while the last half are about injuries, injuries, uhhhh… injuries, and oh yes, Arsenal playing Celtic. Let’s start with the good news:
ROSICKY HEALTHY FOR SATURDAY
Now, technically, I know that this isn’t news that we can use ahead of the Champions League clash with Celtic, but it’s such a huge relief to have Rosicky back that I thought I would lead with it. Besides, with Cesc now confirmed to be out of tomorrow’s match and possibly out of Saturday’s match, having Rosicky back at all is a huge boost to the squad.
That’s right, I glossed over the Cesc thing very quickly. Wenger did confirm that Cesc Fabregas will not play tomorrow. He’s doubtful for Saturday and as Arseblog pointed out this morning that could be Arsene Wenger wanting to keep Cesc off international duty and give him time to fully recover. What we don’t want to do is have Fabregas caught in a vicious cycle of injury, internationals, injury, rest, internationals, injury… you get the point. It’s sound logic on Arseblog’s part and I think we have the depth in Cesc’s spot to carry on for two weeks while he heals up.
I don’t know if he was just being pedantic but Wenger did insist that we not call this “squad rotation.” It was a bit of a strange exchange but Arsene was adamant that he’s not “rotating” but rather that he’s playing his “most efficient” players on any given day. Of course, this decision is taken after looking at how tired a player is, and factors like that, BUT IT’S NOT ROTATION!
Speaking of not rotating, Eduardo will be available for the game tomorrow as well and Le Boss spoke of the importance of having a class player like Eduardo available on the bench or to not-rotate him into the starting lineup. Wenger shrewdly withdrew Arshavin at the 70th minute on Saturday and that could be because he wants him fresh for tomorrow, or Arshavin could be a sub tomorrow. Bendtner is certainly ready and will by all accounts play on the right. Diaby, unless he slips and falls on his way to the match tomorrow, is ready, Song is rested, and Denilson is ready.
The only question thus is which players will Wenger play on the left and as the lone target up front. We could see Arshavin on the left and Eduardo up front or Eduardo on the left and van Persie up front, but really I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. We do know that Wenger will play the “most efficient” players and I’m speculating that it will be this:
You’ll notice that I have reverted to the 4-3-3, well, that’s because Wenger specified that he’ll use it!
I would be remiss if I left off the only other injury news that the boss confirmed today and that is that Carlos Vela is out for 2-3 weeks. His ankle injury is severe enough, and Arsene said that he doesn’t want to hurt him long term, so the team have put him in a boot. He’s out of commission for both club and country for the next 3 weeks. Hmmm…. I do wonder if Wenger isn’t getting more shrewd with the National sides? I mean, the lesson was there to be learnt after being burnt by Theo Walcott’s injury.
As for transfer speculation, Arsene Wenger was very clear, “we are not close to signing ANYONE” he said and when asked about the retardulous Blaise Matuidi story he barked “I deny that.” He was a little less clear about Senderos and would only go so far as to say that IF Sendy was still with the team on the 31st, then he would be part of Arsenal’s plans this season. A bit strange all this about Senderos. Sounds to me like the player is mulling over options and you have to wonder if Arsene isn’t keeping his eye on someone to replace Sendy, but only if the player chooses to leave.
So… that’s pretty much it, oh yeaah, we’re playing some team tomorrow, uhh whats their name, Stephen Appiah Coming to Arsenal ZOMG FC?
Oh yeah, Celtic. Wenger spoke about them as well, highlighting the fact that Celtic are a dangerous team who now have nothing left to lose and will come out and basically go for broke. There is a temptation with the way that Arsenal have been playing, averaging 4 goals a game and winning with aplomb, for a squad to take their eyes off the prize and lose focus. We saw it happen with this same squad last year about 4 too many times. But Wenger is adamant that he won’t let the players cruise through this game and that they are all well aware of what Celtic did in the second leg of their tie in Moscow, the game that earned them the right to play Arsenal.
I told them already and they know that there’s so much at stake for us that I don’t think there’s any danger of them easing off AT ALL.
Overall it was a different press conference today. Wenger seemed very assured, very direct (with the exception of the Senderos question) and I could almost say confidently relaxed and focused on the task ahead. Awesome, that’s exactly how I would want him to be.
The match is live on Fox Soccer Channel here in the states (kickoff 11:45am PST) and that means no high definition broadcast for me. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to live with watching what should be a cracking end-to-end, physically demanding, Champions League encounter live in regular definition. Such sadness, is like a plague of sighing and grief! It blows a man up like a bladder.
I’d better relieve my bladder.
Tomorrow, I will be watching the match live from home, so I will attempt to do the liveblog which means no morning blog. This time, since I disabled the chat feature on the site, I think we’ll be ok running the liveblog, I guess we’ll see tomorrow.