Another Road Trip in domestic cup competitions tonight with the failure to win the original tie at home coming in handy for once. Whilst Toure’s absence leaves a big hole in the defence, William Gallas is there to fill it and to be honest, despite his lack of match fitness, there are precious few other defenders in the Premiership with as much ability and experience. It allows Arsene to pick Djourou in the centre safe in the knowledge that there is an experience pair of hands beside him. A win tonight would take out another of Toure’s suspension period, meaning that he would only miss the Aston Villa game in the Premiership. A by-product of his sending off is that he gets the rest he deserves for his efforts although he strikes me as the sort of player who wants to be on the pitch all of the time, an enthusiasm for the game demanding his inclusion.
Emmanuel Adebayor is also missing for at least three matches following the failure of his appeal against his dismissal in Cardiff. His ban is likely to be increased by another two or three games following on from the additional charges of Reacting In An Aggressive Manner and Failing To Leave The Pitch Promptly. In domestic terms, it looks as if Adebayor is going to get a spring break, the earliest return from five games out being mid-March.
The match against Blackburn is an ideal opportunity to get Sunday out of the Clubs system, the palaver in the media will be forgotten although you can just feel it in your bones that there will another Red Card tonight, a different Blackburn player throwing themselves theatrically to the ground in Savage’s absence cannot be ruled out.
A plethora of late injuries mean that the team could quite conceivably play in the Carling Cup and not have been noticed.
Almunia; Eboue, Gallas, Djourou, Traore; Hleb, Fabregas, Gilberto, Flamini; Baptista, Aliadiere
with a bench of:
Poom, Hoyte, Ljungberg, Denilson,
I believe Arsene will rest Senderos ahead of the Reading and PSV games where I think he will partner Gallas and Toure respectively. Had Toure not been dismissed, I suspect he and Gallas would have been the pairing tonight with Djourou on the bench. At right back, I expect Arsene to risk Hoyte, keeping him on the bench for his versatility rather than Senderos who is purely a centre-half. Eboue will get the nod at Right Back despite his indiscretions but I would expect him to be on his best behaviour, not wanting to incur the beaks wrath ahead of his upcoming sentencing. Midfield is weakened by Rosicky’s absence but I suspect that Flamini will get the nod ahead of Denilson and Ljungberg to add some more steel and try to give the full-backs some protection.
The similarities with this and the Bolton tie cannot be ignored. Blackburn are capable of playing more to feet than Big Sam’s outfit and they will have to play a more attacking game than at The Emirates. They will also be looking to avenge two defeats in the past two or so months, motivation if ever there were any needed. Rovers will however be mindful of the beating they took at Ewood Park recently; comprehensively outplayed by ten men and they will be more cautious in going forward than a home side would in a cup tie, wary of leaving gaps at the back for Arsenal to exploit.