Lots of injury news today so lets jump straight in with a knee-high, studs-up lunge, shall we?
The boss broke down the injuries list and it is as follows: Vela will not be involved because he hasn’t even landed yet, Bendtner’s out with a ‘recurrence of his groin’ (what happened, did his groin multiply?), Eduardo is out, Fabianski is still out even though he is practicing normally, Clichy picked up a knock and is out, Nasri is out and Denilson and Djourou are still out.
Almunia is available, having recovered from his chest cold and I think he presents a bit of an interesting selection challenge for the boss. If he was legitimately injured then in my mind, he starts because players shouldn’t lose their starting spots to injury. If, however, there’s something more to his absence than just injury then the boss could start him and see how he does or could start Mannone and see if he is gaining consistency. Wenger was coy about the keeper selection in his pre-match presser.
We all know how tight lipped he is about the team before the match but I have to wonder, if Almunia is #1, and he’s healthy, then he’s not letting anything out of the bag by saying “yes, we will be playing our #1 keeper.” He had no problem naming Gibbs as the starting left-back, so exactly what the deal is with keeper is going to have to remain a mystery until tomorrow. If he picks Mannone, then clearly something is up with Almunia.
The good news is that the core of this team is healthy; Diaby is 100% after sitting out for France (do you see what I did there?), Cesc is available, and Arshavin is available. My team selection is as follows:
I suspect that Sagna will get a rest, Diaby is our only real choice in midfield and Wenger will deploy our dream forward three of Arshavin, van Persie, and Rosicky. This lineup means that Diaby will need to temper his tendency to get forward and by ‘temper’ I mean: STOP IT. Diaby’s going to have to let Cesc and those guys do the fun stuff up front and do the dirty work with Song in keeping the Birmingham counter attack in check.
On thing I found a bit odd is that the boss looked surprised when a reporter told him that 24 goals in the first 7 games is a Premier League record goals tally for the start of the season. Honestly, it was news to me as well, but when you stop to think about it, 3.4 goals per game is really incredible. That puts us on pace to score 130 goals this season and that, I can assure you, has never been done. In fact, not even close. If you go back to 2001 there are two teams which tied for most goals scored in a season at 87; Manure and Arsenal.
87 goals in a season is a little under 2.3 goals a game and is still considered scoring at a really good clip. 3.4 goals a game is off the charts and I don’t think we should even start to think that this pace will continue. Could this team get 100 goals in a season? They’d have to score 2.63 goals a game to do it. I don’t know, as I wrote about the other day, it’s clear that this Arsenal team is purpose built to score goals so if anyone could do it it’s us. Wenger even chalks the goals for tally up to the style of play, the talent, and the drive forward by this team and says that they “want to express themselves” so maybe that’s just the way this team wants to play: score a monstrous number of goals.
But let me be clear; 100 goals in a season is spectacularly spectacular. I’m talking on the level of The Invincibles. It’s just not done. But if they did it? We could call them “The Centurions.” In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this team will score 100 goals this season. Only 76 more to go!
Of course, that’s all speculation, and right here in front of us we have Birmingham a team, who, to be fair, are going to park the bus, set out the awning, set up a blacksmith shop, and start making horseshoes. If they get 5 shots on goal I will, literally, shit my pants. Literally.
Getting 3 goals against this team will be quite a task. Again, as I wrote two days ago, teams who play for 1 point a game are relegation fodder and that’s what Birmingham journalists are admitting that this team is doing. It’ll be a bit different in January when their rich owner springs some cash for transfers but right now, Birmingham City has one thing on their mind: get a draw.
The one thing on our minds, however, is to get a massive win. Of course, the topic of Taylor breaking Eduardo’s leg being the last time these two met comes up, and from the following quote it really does dound like Arsenal and Arsene might have put this behind them:
I’m not worried about that. It’s a bad memory but I do not go in to the game tomorrow thinking it was against them that it happened, that could have happened against any team. It was very unfortunate and it was a big, big turning point in the season on the day because of the many negative events happening on the same day. But, we do not go into the game tomorrow thinking that we are going to take revenge on them for that. We want to win the game tomorrow because it can strengthen our position in the league.
I don’t expect him to say any less, but still, you have to think that the players who were there will want to show Birmingham a warm welcome back to top flight football with an old fashioned ass whuppin. Before that match, we looked like the team that was going to win the league. Soon after the game we were dumped out of all competitions in spectacular fashion and by the end of the season we fell to third and I trace it all directly back to that game. That has an effect on players. You can’t tell me that a guy who is as competitive as Cesc Fabregas is isn’t going to want to go out there and pick Blackburn apart: eviscerate them and pick the meat off their bones. Wenger’s statement is all well and fine, and I expect no less from the manager, but I also expect that El Capitan will want a scalp tomorrow.
For their part, Birmingham will play with a single “forward” who will rarely venture past the half way point. Blah blah, injuries, blah blah, new owner, blah blah, relegation battle, blah blah blah. With these teams it’s always the same old crap. The only difference is that unlike in the past, Arsenal has players like Arshavin, Rosicky, and Fabregas in forward roles and they can use their dribbling skills, close control, and precise passing to open up teams who try to park the bus. My only question is this: will Arsenal score more goals than the number of Birmingham supporters who show up to the away section?
That’s it for the match preview. I’m not going to get into the Sol Campbell thing, it’s just training, he’s not coming back. Similarly with Fergie and all the other stuff that the press wants to pull us into. Screw that stuff, we’ve got football in the morning!
As for viewings, if you live in Seattle/Tacoma the match is a traditional 7am kickoff and several of us are gathering at Doyle’s (link on the right) to buy Trav the Chav some drinks in honor of his birthday. If you live in Seattle, you can go to the George or to Fado, both will have live viewings.
I will post a discussion thread for those of you who can watch the match live to make comments in but I won’t be near the internet during the match tomorrow, so you’ll all have to carry the load. UPDATE: Doyle’s now has wi-fi and I will be tweeting live from the match, follow me over at my twitter feed. I will also post a good, bad, and ugly right afters.
Right, that’s it for today, come by tomorrow for some discussion at 7am and for a post match reaction around 10-11. See you then.