The news that the missing trio of Fabregas, Hleb and Flamini all trained on Friday is welcome indeed. Added to the midweek return of Robin van Persie, it means that the strongest squad available to Arsene is ready for selection to varying degrees.
He has commented that he will make a decision on Sunday morning about who participates that afternoon against Chelsea and to what extent their involvement will take. For all of the conjecture about the team, it would not surprise me if Arsene chose all of RvP, Flamini, Fabregas and Hleb to start.
Fabregas is the subject of an interview in The Times this morning. He has some interesting views on English players,
I don’t see a lot of English players taking the risk to go out of the country to try to fight for their chance. It looks like they are comfortable where they are and that is it
There is a substantial element of truth in that but historically Spaniards have travelled out of the country less than the English. Whilst it is becoming more common, the reluctance of English players to move is somewhat baffling if you think of anything other than money. After all, many outside of professional football move abroad and are successful at it; football is perhaps a more mobile career, albeit shorter, so why do more not do it?
Fabregas is asked to describe Arsene in six words. His first was ‘smelly’ which apparently meant intuitive. The others were talented, sacrificial, intelligent, patient and winner. He was also asked to draw a picture of himself on a whiteboard and the result was him scoring the only goal against Chelsea tomorrow. His comment afterwards,
I ask the supporters to cheer and help the team even if we are behind. It’s very important.
Arsene echoed that theme,
I want our fans to be behind out team and not to especially have resentment with Ashley Cole
Funnily enough, we as supporters ask the impossible of the team every week and more often than not, they deliver. Will we do so when he asks the same of us? No chance. Cole will be hammered. Personally, I do not care about him, anger over the move dissipating as soon as last season started. If some bear grudges so be it; that is the history of football and it will not change. However it should not detract from backing the team from the off.
The debate about who of Fabregas and Hleb is the most important to the team misses the point to some degree. To compare them in terms of skill is disingenuous as they bring different skill sets to the team. None is more important to any outcome and all are missed in equal measure when the trio are out at the same time. A combination of two of the three will compensate for one who is missing but not entirely.
Populist mythology suggests that Fabregas is more important. The media ram that message down our throats all of the time. He is the more complete player of the three but that does not mean that he is the only key ingredient in Arsenal’s successful start to this season. The combination of their play is crucial. Either can be provider and scorer; neither can do everything by themselves. Each provides an outlet for the other and their teammates, a strong player who works hard to give themselves space to receive a pass. If anything, Hleb is possibly the better of the two at receiving the ball under the close attention of an opponent, his count of stray passes amongst the lowest in the Premier League.
Flamini has provided a solid cover in midfield for the other two to display their respective flair. Having been given the opportunity, he has not spurned it. Concerns about whether or not he can regain the form he has shown thus far are not unfounded but should not be any deeper than those surrounding any player coming back from injury. Quite simply, he has worked too hard to surrender his place easily. He knows that Diarra is building in the same way that he has had to and putting him in the defensive role would not be hard for Arsene, especially if the gifted individuals are back in the team.
This match is being built up beyond its importance. It is a key game but one of twenty four remaining. A win is the demand, a draw is acceptable under the current conditions but defeat is dangerous, possibly damaging morale. However, after the game there will still be sixty nine points to be won or lost and those are the ones where titles will be won or lost.