The clubs first visit to Turf Moor in decades this afternoon and a warm welcome awaits I am sure on this cold Sunday. Indeed, it seems Burnley striker Andy Gray got his dream come true with the weather after opining in yesterday’s Sun that it would be one of the factors that could decide the tie. The second part of that wish – that we apparently do not like the North West – is nowhere near true this season as the League and Carling Cup results have shown.
Unusually for Arsene, he has told us the team in advance. Well, not quite told us but has left so many hints as to who will not be playing that it is hard not to guess who will be involved. Whether Alex Song has already departed for Cameroon’s African Cup of Nations adventure, I am not sure. If he has not, I would expect him to start this afternoon. If he has, the choice will be Djourou or Senderos. Of the two, Senderos needs the match time having played in the Carling Cup and Champions League recently whilst Djourou has featured for Birmingham in the Premier League. To counter that, he needs to get used to the Arsenal ‘way’ again so an appearance at Turf Moor would help in that respect. However, I suspect that Arsene will go for Senderos if either of the Swiss Internationals are required. Up front, Bendtner will start but I suspect alongside Eduardo rather than Walcott although it might happen.
Arsene believes that the departure of players to the ACN is no excuse for failing to win the Premier League
I won’t use it as an excuse if we don’t win the title because I have known who we will lose since the start of the season
He believes that Chelsea will be hardest hit, which is undeniably true. They also have the financial backing to know that signing a replacement for each of the players and paying the full squad’s wages is not an issue either whereas it would be for Arsenal.
Back to this afternoon. My expected line-up is
Lehmann; Sagna, Toure, Song (Senderos), Traore; Eboue, Denilson, Diarra, Diaby; Bendtner, Eduardo
with a bench of
Fabianksi, Rosicky, Djourou, Walcott, Senderos (Gilberto)
The team ought to be able to beat Burnley but as Oldham, Coventry and Huddersfield showed yesterday, nothing can be taken for granted. Arsene compared the situation to one Roger Federer described,
I read an article about [tennis world number one] Roger Federer who said in an interview that when he goes to a big tournament he’s always very apprehensive about the first rounds. ‘In the quarter-final I dream to win it, but I am scared of the first round’. That is a good comparison with a cup tie. Once you are installed in it, the team has the target in front of them – in the early rounds you need to be really focussed
Elsewhere, Arsene has apparently secured the services of Matt Freeman when he turns sixteen in the summer. Currently in Gillingham’s first team squad, he is the youngest ever player to appear in the FA Cup at 15 years and 233 days. The Independent reports that the decision over whether or not to sign Nikolai Dimitrov will be taken this week, the left winger having been on trial at the club.
Cesc Fabregas has played the latest Madrid interest with a straight bat. Even by Spanish standards, it is unusual for the speculation to be in action this early and sets up the coming summer for more interest from both Real and Barcelona. They will be unswayed by his response,
Right now, I would die for Arsenal. Here I feel very relaxed and important, and for me that is fundamental. That is invaluable. I enjoy playing
and probably have been encouraged by
The whole world knows that it makes me happy that a team like Madrid wants you. It is an incredible compliment.
If they are not, the Spanish media will have been. Frankly there is little else that he can say. We will not hear, “I have no interest in joining Real / Barca” for two reasons. Firstly, it limits his options should they wear thin at Arsenal and secondly, joining the clubs probably does hold an interest for him in much the same way that any Englishman playing abroad would be flattered by one of the top four showing an interest in them. Not that any English player of such substance is likely to play abroad, of course. It is something that will just have to be tolerated and not working ourselves into a lather about.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.