The Premiership Leaders visit The Emirates today, a phrase not associated with the word ‘City’ following on from ‘Manchester’. In fact, I cannot remember the last time they visited us as League Leaders; it could possibly be the early 70’s when Rodney Marsh’s signing was widely attributed as being the reason they blew their total challenge. 1971-2, I think was the season in question.
Anyway, I digress, back to this afternoon’s fixture. The injury news is mixed but on the whole positive. The experienced hands of Lehmann (no pun intended) and Gallas are out but returning are Adebayor, Diaby, Gilberto and Rosicky. It seems to me that the first two on that list will be on the bench but it will good to see the latter both return to the midfield. Gilberto in particular ought to be nicely rested and raring to go. Whilst Flamini has worked hard in his absence, the calmness and protection that the Brazilian offers to the defence will be particularly welcome.
In defence, Kolo Toure will be Captain and accompanied by Phillippe Senderos. It seemed to work well for just over an hour on Sunday at Ewood Park and I see no reason for that not to continue today. It is good chance for two of the backline to prove their doubters wrong; Senderos and Almunia for different reasons do not have the full backing of the Support, the former due to performances that have not been of the quality that he produced two seasons ago and the latter because other than the Carling Cup, he rarely gets a chance to show his capabilities.
My expected line-up is:
Almunia; Sagna, Toure, Senderos, Clichy; Hleb, Fabregas, Gilberto, Rosicky; Eduardo, RvP
with a bench of:
Fabianski, Hoyte, Diaby, Walcott, Adebayor
It is a good opportunity to bring people back gently, assuming of course that as someone described it yesterday, the usual Emirates welcome is not extended to City. I would give Rosicky an hour and then switch Walcott with Rosicky, moving Hleb to the left and give Adebayor twenty minutes in place of RvP. Unusual the last one I know but there has to be some lattitude given to Eduardo to gel with the team and he needs ninety minutes under his belt. My impression of him as a player is that if he scores one, he will get a couple. Well that’smy plan which will no doubt go out of the window within the first fifteen minutes.
City are unrecognisable from the team under Stuart Pearce, not just in terms of the new faces but in the style of play and results. Each time Eriksson has brought a side to Arsenal, I have not been impressed by them. Even when the results have gone against us (Benfica 1 – 3) his side were not good, merely exploiting our misfortune – Pates or Campbell, I think, hit the woodwork – and naivete in extra time. The other games have proved to be productive in front of goal for Arsenal (Gothenburg 5 – 1, Lazio 2 – 0, Sampdoria 3- 2) with The Arsenal being totally dominant in each game.
The form though being shown by Micah Richards for City could make life difficult for the forwards although on Sunday, City and Schmeichel in particular, rode their luck on a number of occasions. Indeed the only game where they were reasonably comfortable in defence was Derby’s visit to The City Of Manchester Stadium so there is good reason to be optimistic that any of the combination of Eduardo, Adebayor and RvP may find the back of the net. However, the midfield will need to close down Elano and Geovanni, ensuring that the former does not provide the latter with opportunities to test Almunia. I suppose though that the Spaniard will be hoping that the floodlights are on; one dip of his Dayglo yellow hair will blind any onrushing City forwards.
For those of a superstitious bent, this is the fifth time that the two clubs have met in August in the League and so far it is four wins out of four with a record of 13 Goals for and two against in Arsenal’s favour [if you’re interested the wins were 3 – 0 (1994-5), 2 – 1 (1991-2), 4 – 0 (1973-4) and 4 – 1 (1967-8)].
Enjoy the game wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.