Today we go a game ahead of our rivals as all their fixtures were rearranged for the FA Cup. To keep the hold on third spot in our hands we must win of course. We can only afford one loss now and we have tougher games left than Wigan at home. Next weekend we must play Chelsea. By then hopefully Barcelona will have taken more out of them emotionally and physically than Spurs managed yesterday.
That doesn’t means that the guys can relax tonight of course. If I was Arsene Wenger I’d be tempted to make the squad watch QPR v Arsenal and Wigan v Man Utd back to back this morning.
But who will play tonight? The yellow card accumulator is off so, apart from Koscielny serving his second suspension tonight, we can only lose players through injury. But this is our last weekday game of the season. After this there are four games a week apart, so the need to rotate players is reduced. With all eyes on the prize of automatic Champions League qualification we have to be giving 100% to each game.
Obviously Djourou stays in for the suspended Koscielny and Santos probably stays in for Gibbs. Rosicky will return from being rested against Wolves.
I expect the team to be:
_______ Szczesny ______
Sagna _ DJ _ Verm _ Santos
_________ Song ________
___ Arteta ___ Rosicky ___
Walcott __ RVP _ Benayoun
The only question could be whether Arsene Wenger decides to rest Benayoun. But he’s only played a couple of games recently and he cannot feature in the next one against Chelsea anyway. I think that success in this final run-in has a lot to do with not screwing up stupidly. So I would hope we err in favour of old pro’s now. As long as they’re on top of fit bodies, let’s have the wisest heads for these last games.
I must admit that Santos worries me slightly. He is a wonderfully ‘free’ player, unconstrained by the words ‘left’ or ‘back’ and creates good attacking options. So far it hasn’t seriously cost us, but it does mean that Vermaelen, Song and Benayoun need to keep track of whether he’s left a dangerous hole that needs covering.
Wigan need watching. They are playing for their Premiership survival and will want something from every game no matter who they play. They have industry, pace and a few bits of top skill too. But an Arsenal team that’s really on it should win tonight. Let’s keep this in our own hands.
Come on you Gunners!
It wouldn’t be neighbourly though to finish without some reference to yesterday’s events at Wembley. Martin Atkinson was kind enough to give Harry Redknapp something to talk about other than getting thrashed. This is of course the same referee that saw enough of Balotelli’s assault on Alex Song to decide it didn’t even merit a yellow.
Now he’s gifted a goal when the ball wasn’t close to crossing the line. He’s having a bad week. But he’s only human. Which is why we need to support referees with the technology that’s bean available for years. And no-one can argue that the game would have been delayed any longer than the time taken by the Spur’s players’ protests yesterday.
Of course, that only explains one Chelsea goal Harry! What about the other four? And there we were hoping for a gruelling 120 minutes. Even before yesterday, Spurs fans that I work with were beginning to fear that their pursuit of Champions League football could go horribly wrong. I will try and be sympathetic and reassuring;-)