Ahead of this afternoon’s potential clash with Everton, Arsene and Ivan Gazidis have been putting some firm opinions into the public arena regarding any additions or departures to the squad. The strongest hint about movement has been in central defence with Wenger confirming interest in bringing Sol Campbell back to the club if Philippe Senderos leaves this month.
His comments leave little doubt that the Swiss international has played his last game for the club unless the injury situation requires him. Given his own problems on that front, it is a little surprising that Campbell is not being re-signed in any case.
The money available to Wenger this winter has been the subject of considerable speculation, no doubt influencing the media activity of Gazidis and Arsene over the past couple of days. Both have been at pains to point out that panic spending is not going to happen. Prior to the window opening, a striker was believed to be the manager’s priority. Pressure eased there with the news that Nicklas Bendtner is two weeks away from being fit for action. The Dane will give Wenger options yet that would still leave room for an additional forward for the remaining 4 months of the season.
Therein is Wenger’s quandry. He has to ensure Arsenal stay in contention throughout that time and then go on to win. Yet once everyone is fit again, he is faced with the dilemma of who will be his first choice. Transient factors such as injuries and form come into the equation but any incoming players must be better than those already available to him.
Wenger spoke of big name players, defining them as individuals who can perform at Arsenal on a regular basis, observing that he has youngsters available who can fulfil that function. Both manager and CEO were at pains to point out, big money signings do not automatically mean success and that a number of his targets are financially out of his reach, Gignac one mentioned specifically, Dzeko presumably another.
Chamakh was targetted but his Mr20% has been talking up his client, Liverpool amongst the numerous English suitors for the player who will be available free this summer. No contact apparently from Arsenal and you wonder if the Moroccan’s recent outburst about being pressurised by Arsenal has raised question marks about his mentality. Indeed, the only definite contact Arsenal has made was to send Barcelona and Real a letter telling them to desist from trying to sign Fabregas as he is not for sale. Not one jot of notice will be taken as rampaging egos storm the parapets of their respective boardrooms, the former particularly in light of the upcoming Presidential elections, the latter has a leader who possesses the only ego that matters in his own eyes.
So to this afternoon. The fixture is one of only three to survive today and changes the game in hand from Bolton at home to Everton at home. The outcome remains the same; three points cuts the deficit to one behind Chelsea. If Birmingham obtain anything from their encounter with Manchester United, so much the better.
Team news is scarce other than the return to fitness of Tomas Rosicky. The Czech is back and ready to enter the fray, providing some prompting in the continued absence of the captain. It would be a surprise if he started though, his fitness needs to be more established and there is no immediate necessity for his return, others in the squad capable of playmaking.
The pressure falls on Aaron Ramsey after two outstanding performances on the road. The youngster is proving that Wenger was right to go the extra mile in signing him, rather than being contemptuous as Manchester United were. At this moment, talk of him replacing the captain is premature since (a) Fabregas has not left and (b) Ramsey is still aiming for consistency of performance. A regular starting place will enhance the chances of the latter and compliment the Spaniard on his return to the team.
Everton has a point to prove following the drubbing handed out at Goodison Park on the opening day of the season, a torment further added to by Denilson’s return to fitness. His is one of the few changes expected today with the line-up likely to be:
Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traore; Diaby, Denilson, Ramsey; Arshavin, Eduardo, Nasri
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. If it goes ahead that is. ’til Tomorrow.