Three points at Arsenal?

Three wins in one season over them who until very recently had excelled in being our biggest bogey side would be too much to ask for, right? Pulling one out of the bag on a weekend in which both us and our greatest rivals for that elusive fourth Champions League position are expected to be beaten, well we'd be dreaming, no? Nurse...

Other than the usual suspects - Michael Johnson, Joleon Lescott and Martin Petrov, only Sylvinho and Micah Richards are deemed doubtful. Micah was to be assessed after training today and should be involved in some capacity, Sylvinho might be lucky to make the final eighteen.

Arsenal could be missing half of their strongest eleven plus a fair few bench-warmers. Manuel Almunia has a wrist injury so Lukasz Fabianski will continue in goal. First-choice central defensive duo Bill Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen are unlikely to play again this season with calf injuries, a problem that should also keep Andrei Arshavin out despite press reports indicating otherwise midweek. Cesc Fabregas has a broken leg. Denilson, Djourou, Gibbs and Ramsey will also be absent.

In twenty-five competitive home games this season Arsenal have only failed to win four. One of those was the 2-2 draw with the best team in the world, Barcelona not Everton who also left the Emirates with a draw. Their only two defeats have come against Chelsea - where they were simply overpowered, and United - who again demonstrated that the Gooners can struggle with the counter-attack.

I think we might see a tactical change tomorrow, and a switch back to the 4-3-3/4-5-1 from 4-4-2. In both tests away against members of the Big Four under Mancini so far we've gone with a very rigid midfield three, and so Patrick Vieira or Pablo Zabaleta might come in, possibly for Adam Johnson or even Emmanuel Adebayor.

Providing Alex Song passes a fitness test he should make up a back five that otherwise picks itself. Thomas Rosicky, who's been just about the pick of a bad bunch over a few rotten weeks for Arsenal, ought to start opposite Theo Walcott, with the new Gareth Bale - Ivorian villain-cum-hero Emmanuel Eboue likely to make up a the midfield with Nasri and Diaby. Niklas Bendtner will probably continue, but the inclusion of Robin van Persie would certainly lift the home crowd, the Dutchman pushing for a starting place after impressing from the bench in the defeat at Spurs.

With Arsenal's season pretty much over it wouldn't come as a complete surprise if we got something in a game that we'd otherwise expect absolutely sod all from. Their bad form (one win in six), and a squad largely made up of players whose eyes may be on South Africa, certainly gives us a faint hope, and knowing we need at least eight points from twelve, well, stranger things have happened. Pundits and the man in the street seem to fancy us as the nap of the weekend, but this sort of blind optimism might perhaps be tempered by our record both away in this particular fixture, and overall of late. At Fulham and Burnley we had the ball against teams with other things on their mind or who were simply rubbish, respectively. Arsenal will have several points to prove.

The headlines will inevitably centre around Ade's first return to his former employers since he acted like a complete numskull not once but twice during the earliest of our two maulings of them this season. Running the length of the pitch to wind up those who used to pay his wages was tempestuous if initially funny, but kicking a former team-mate in the face was pretty unforgivable, and though i agree with 5Live pundit and former Gunner Perry Groves that the best way to deal with a big ego on an opposing team is simply not to feed it, he'll be the star attraction.

Adebayor, for my money, has had a relatively successful campaign, but we must agree that the assessment of most Arsenal fans pre-season has been proved correct. You can't argue with a goal ratio better than one-in-two, but his overall form dips greatly and there seems to be little middle ground. Since the events of the African Nations he has generally performed better, but he'll never be anything less than frustrating simply because he has everything needed to be as good a centre-forward as there is. His languid style masks the fact that he's as quick and skillful as pretty much anyone, but so long as we're winning i'm not that arsed that he's occasionally a bit of an arsehole, he's a professional footballer, for f*cks sake, i imagine it would be hard not to be having had your ego pampered to for your adult life.

From our point of view, you have to look at the central core of the Arsenal back-line as being an area we can get at. Our main front three have over fifty goals between them, their back 'three' have been at fault for several goals of late between them, or in the case of Song, won't be playing in their natural position. A failed fitness test there would come as especially welcome news, with Mikael Silvestre lumbering his way towards retirement.

Although on paper at least whatever side we put out should be stronger than them in every department, i'm still not convinced we have it in us to go there and dictate possession. Trophyless and ultimately disappointing seasons or not, they're the best there is in this league with the ball, and only an outstanding, workmanlike performance plus them having an off-day will see us come away with anything. Here's hoping it's one of those weird, largely lifeless, end of season turn-ups.

Possible teams:
Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Clichy, Campbell, Song, Diaby, Walcott, Eboue, Nasri, Bendtner, Rosicky

City: Given, Onuoha, Bridge, Toure, Kompany, de Jong, Zabaleta, Barry, Tevez, Adebayor, Bellamy

Prediction: Arsenal 2 City 2


  1. nice one
    as an arsenal fan it is nice to see an unbiased blog

  2. A well written piece, well done from this Gooner.