A tough trip to Everton today. One defeat in fifteen games is not a record to be dismissed lightly. Indeed, their last two defeats have been at home to Liverpool and away at United. However, that indicates a flaw that can be exploited. Everton are capable of being a troublesome opponent but one which seems to fall short against the leaders. Recent history suggests that against Arsenal, they are either stubborn resistors or capitulate completely. The former seems more likely which puts pressure on the players to recapture their spirit and performance levels of pre-November.
The team news going into the game is mixed. William Gallas has recovered from his foot injury and will take his place alongside Kolo Toure in the centre of the defence. Emmanuel Eboue is rested ahead of the Cup of Nations whilst Theo Walcott is not expected to return before the visit of West Ham. Which means the tinkering that Arsene would have done anyway is going to happen in midfield.
Robin van Persie is still not fit. Arsene commented yesterday,
I thought he could play against Everton but I was a bit too optimistic because he is not ready. I believe it is a short term problem but he will not be available against West Ham either. It is a muscular problem but we need patience. It is a small injury but if you want to win a horse race you need your horse to be 100 per cent
Very true but they shoot horses, don’t they?
There seem to be three options for him. Firstly, he could employ Diarra on the right hand side. It is a risky proposition. He has performed in the past at right back; the move into right midfield is an altogether different prospect. From what I have seen of him, I do not think he has the requisite attributes for the role. He is an able deputy for the defensive midfield role but I am unconvinced he has the ability to stretch a defence by giving the Arsenal midfield width. Unless there are unreported injuries, I suspect this is a non-starter.
Arsene may be tempted to do is put Diarra into the centre as a defensive pairing with Flamini, leaving Cesc to roam free in the middle, the peak of a central trio with Rosicky and Hleb on the flanks, the formation being almost 4-2-3-1. This would have the effect of negating one of Everton’s defensive midfielders, occupying them with the possibility of a break from Hleb, Fabregas or Rosicky and impeding their ability to get forward to support any attacks by the hosts. It would give Arsenal a solid wall in front of the defence but unfortunately may cause a narrowing of Arsenal’s attacks, relying too much on Sagna and Clichy to bring width as Rosicky and Hleb move naturally inside.
More likely, Diaby will be included on the left with Rosicky moving to the right. This seems to be Arsene’s favoured deployment when the right side of midfield is depleted and could well be a favoured tactic over the next six weeks with Eboue being absent. Whilst I am sure most would prefer to see 4-4-2, that appears to be unlikely if the BBC are correct and Eduardo has not travelled to Liverpool. Much as it would be a popular move to include him from the start, Bendtner will be rooted to the bench until the final quarter of the game, injuries aside.
The likely line-up for the match would seem to be
Almunia; Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy; Rosicky, Fabregas, Flamini, Diaby; Hleb; Adebayor
With a bench of
Lehmann, Senderos, Song, Diarra, Bendtner
Arsene has signalled that he will not be active in the transfer window due to start next week. On the subject of forwards, he commented that van Persie would be ‘like a new signing’ which may well be the bud being well and truly nipped. Jens, we are informed, will be allowed to go if he wants to which is significant as it means that Fabianski must be performing well enough in training to have convinced Arsene that he is ready for first team action if called upon. I am surprised by the comments in some respects as I believe it would have been useful to have someone that experienced to step in if Almunia needed a small piece of motivation to rediscover his form. However, Arsenal is being linked with Heinz Muller amid fifty seven varieties of transfer rumour…I wonder if it’s too late to get a gig with Sir Bruce?
Lassana Diarra and to a lesser extent, Abou Diaby have been singled out for criticism by Arsene, a rarity in itself. Both had murmured that they may want to leave The Emirates if regular first team football is not presented on a plate to them. Arsene gave them both barrels,
You tell me one club in the world, of our size, that gives a chance to the young players as we do? There is not one. You go to Real Madrid, you go to Milan, where do the young players play?
He is of course correct.
You cannot always feel sorry for players who are a bit frustrated. We are not in a kindergarten here – we are in a job for men. Why should I come up and give explanations for every individual who is not happy? It is a joke.
Sadly Arsene it is not.
When you are a professional footballer, competition is part of your job. Why should we suddenly all feel surprised a player is frustrated? You cannot be at our level at one of the biggest clubs in the world, paid at a fantastic level, and have no competition.
At the end of the day, I will act for what is good for the club, because that is my first responsibly – what it important is what is good for hundred of thousands, not what is good for one.
It is a rare outburst from Arsene, publicly at least but one has to say, a timely one. The lead up to the transfer window seems to be used a bat with which malcontents can beat the managers into submission. In Diarra’s case, his interview in France recently was foolhardy. If he believed he was going to walk straight into the Arsenal team having moved on transfer window deadline day, he was deluding himself. Rare is the ability of a player who instantly commands a place in any team. Diarra is not such a rarity. He is a promising individual who has done well to work himself into the French national squad; he is however not indispensable, merely expensive to replace. He is also a player with a lot of hard work to do to win people over in terms of his attitude.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ‘til Tomorrow.