United Preview

So after our European exploits earlier in the week it’s back to Premier League duty today and it’s not a home game against lowly relegation threatened canon fodder (a bit early in the season for that anyway to be fair) it’s a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.

We’ve not won at OT in seven years and with the perilous state our squad is currently in you have to say that the signs are ominous, but hey Liverpool had not beaten us in our own back yard for eleven years until last Saturday so let’s not be too dismissive just yet (There’s that positivity again)

The team news as I have it is fairly mixed – of course we know that due to suspension we are without Alex Song, Gervinho & Emmanuel Frimpong and due to injury we’ll be unable to call upon Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Seb Squillaci, Nicklas Bendtner & of course Abou Diaby. And there were rumours circulating last night that Bacary Sagna was suffering an illness but at the time of writing I’m going to assume (somewhat due to hopeful desperation) that it is little more than a rumour or at least not anything bad enough to keep the French international out of the game.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, after limping off during the defeat to Liverpool Laurent Koscielny returns to the side and whilst he was set for a fitness test yesterday the signs are positive that Thomas Vermaelen will be fit to face the champions. Having our first choice centre back pairing available is certainly a boost, let’s hope they’re able to see the game out and even more importantly let’s hope that they’ll be paired together in the heart of our defence. I guess that with Gibbs once again missing from the side and Wenger seemingly uninterested in playing Armand Traore (who has been heavily linked with another loan move), although we may have no choice than to field him tomorrow, we could again see Bacary Sagna (illness permitting) moved over to fill the left back void with Carl Jenkinson once again having to step into the breach as it were and complete our back line.

Now that is not a slight on young Jenks what so ever, the lad has come in and performed admirably in quite testing circumstances and you have to say that each performance has seen a marked improvement from the last. But you have to consider that given the enormity of the step up he had taken and the amount of playing time he has so far undertaken in his short Arsenal career that tiredness will catch up with him. He looks to be a fit guy & I’m sure that pure adrenaline is playing it’s part when it comes to his match fitness but we can’t and shouldn’t expect that to last long term. Again, I don’t wish to do him an injustice but this is Mancheter United we’re playing this afternoon and they will exploit every and any chink in our armoury no matter how big or small that may be.

But if Jenks, who I must add does remind me of a young Rodney Trotter for some reason and must surely take on Tony Adams old nickname ‘Rodders’, starts the game on the bench and Sagna shifts flanks then it may be possible that with Johan Djourou fit we could see the Swiss partner Kozzer and Vermaelen switched to left back. That would most certainly be the obvious option were you looking to field a back four with the most experience but maybe not my prefered choice as I think TV is too good a centre half to be plotted out on the left.

The problem is that you also have to consider that Djourou maybe be required to plug the gap left by the twin suspensions of Song & Frimpong (or Frimpsong if you will) I’m quite sure that Johan has played a few games in that position before and it would certainly add a touch more stability and strength to our defensive area. I can’t really see who else could fill that role this afternoon so I would be amazed if it wasn’t Djourou, I guess he at least has the same haircut as Song if that counts for anything at all? Having said all this Francis Coquelin is in the squad and rumoured to be set for a start (Yep another Arsenal rumour)

If Vermaelen hasn’t passed that fitness test & Sagna is forced to miss out we could see a back four of Jenkinson – Koscielny – Miquel – Traore and that is frightening to be honest so let’s hope he has.

Although it seems that he can’t manage two games in succession these days Tomas Rosicky is likely to be given a midfield birth after his performance in the second half out in Italy on Wednesday night. Not only will that experience be vital we’ll need his creativity as well, it could be the key to unlocking United, if we stand any chance of unlocking United.

So if two of the midfield three are Djourou & Rosicky then I guess Aaron Ramsey will make up the trio. It was of course the Welshman who scored the winner in the defeat of Ferguson’s men at the grove towards the end of last season and at the moment he must be one of the first names on the team sheet.

I must admit that if that is our midfield line up, and it’s the strongest I can think of, then on paper it looks pretty weak if I’m honest and it could potentially be even weaker and inexperienced.

Surprisingly it’s up front that we could maybe be at our strongest, unless they’ve been maimed in the night (you wouldn’t rule it out at the moment) then Van Persie and Walcott will start and I would hazard a guess either Andrey Arshavin will make up the three although we shouldn’t rule out Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain making his debut or indeed Ryo.

So after all of that I think that, as I tweeted last night, trying to pick our starting XI for the game is like trying to name the successors to the thrown if you removed every royal you’ve heard of but I’m going to push my neck out, ignore anything which at this stage is just a rumour and suggest – Szczesny – Jenkinson – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Sagna – Djourou – Rosicky – Ramsey – Walcott – Van Persie – Arshavin.

The bench is anyone’s guess at this stage but young Dutch midfielder Ohuzhan Ozyakup looks set to take up his place on it alongside Fabianski & probably Henri Lansbury. The rest of the substitutes could be made up of youngsters, and maybe Manuel Almuina doing a turn as an emergency striker. Which reminds me that I have neither mentioned or indeed though of Marouane Chamakh – I wonder why that is?

It’s a shame we won’t be seeing Bendtner, I think he would have been up for a game like this given the circumstances. I wonder if at any point in the summer Wenger has made the Dane any promises of regular football which have fallen on deaf ears? Either Nik just wants out or the gaffer has lost faith in him too, either way I still think it’s a shame and think the lad will develop into a quality centre forward.

One player who’ll most certainly be starting is Wojicech Szczesny and he is undoubtedly going to have a busy afternoon but we know that he is pretty much fearless right now and we’ll be putting a lot of our hopes on the Polish keepers shoulders.

We’ll hopefully be buoyed by Wednesdays victory, that seems like clutching at straws I know but we don’t have much else right now.

We all know that SAF believes he knows how to beat us and recent history backs that up, his side have started the season like a whirlwind and after pulling Spurs apart on Monday night they’ll have been chomping at the bit to get at us over the past week. I would expect to see Ji Sung Park start the game, the Korean always seems to play against us and play well at that.

I’ll be honest our chances of victory are considerably slim but I’m sure the players will go out with a positive attitude and will give all they have. We just have to hope that if we are beaten then it won’t be a mauling.

All that this really does is highlight, again, how thin our squad is. I know that we have players to come back from injury and suspension but even if they were all available tomorrow it would in truth be little more than papering over the cracks.

As I’ve said I expect players to come in before the window closes, we know that the club are working on it and the boss has said he wants to bring in three or four including a striker. That striker could be Park Chu Young the Korean who after suffering relegation with Monaco last season was set to to move to Lille. It seems like Arsenal have swooped in to nab the player.

I’m not going to lie, I know nothing about Park so I can’t really give a critique but those who are in the know seem to be giving this the thumbs up. It certainly has all the hall marks of a Wenger signing, unbeknown to most and coming in for a small fee – in this case reported to be £3m.

What is quite confusing is that Park is due to serve two years national service & there were suggestions that Lille we’re set to pay an extra £2m in order for him to miss this. I’ve no idea if that is true or if indeed that would even be possible, who does the money go to the South Korean government?

Well I’m not going to worry about that now, I’m too busy worrying about this afternoon.

Apparently Gary Cahill had a bit of a mare against Liverpool yesterday, I’ve not seen the game nor any highlights. It’s hilarious that Bolton boss Owen Coyle has blamed the poor performance on our failed “bid” for the centre half saying -“I do think it had an effect on him today. It’s the first time I’ve seen him not be the normal outstanding lad that he is”.

Well that’s just not fair now is it, why did we have to come out and make details of our discussions with Bolton public knowledge? Oh yes that’s right, we didn’t it was the trotters boss and that fat little munchkin of a chairman who went around telling all and sundry that we had mooted an interest in doing a deal and had attempted to start the ball rolling with a somewhat low offer. I wonder why they did that, could it be due to the fact they’re desperate to plug their near £100m debt and want to get top whack for their prize asset who could walk away for free next summer? We’ll I’m not sure that opening your fat yaps and pissing off the most likely buyer and indeed the player himself is the best course of action to take in that case.

Reports today suggest we’ll return with a £12m bid and that Bolton will do business for £15m – we wait to see.

We’re linked with Arteta of Everton again. Long suggested as the player we would go for once Cesc had departed it seems the press forgot that (once Cesc had actually departed) until a couple of days ago. There is speculation of a cash plus NB52 loan bid, and as I’ve said before I think Nik heading to Goodison for a season of regular football would do him good but would we have to pay either all or at least a large share of his wages for that to happen, if indeed the picky bugger were to accept the move. Anyway what is the point of the Toffee’s getting a new striker in if they loose their most creative midfield player – oh hold in that all seems quite familiar, maybe I’ll stop there.

I’m persisting with the positive thinking today but it may not be enough, everyone please cross everything and anything you are able to and hope it is. Another defeat this early in the season could be critical. If it helps anyone, Vidic & Rafael miss out for United…

Oh yeah we’ve drawn Shrewsbury at home in the Carling Cup – Ha, the team that plays today could be similar to the team we put out in that tie. Funny right? Oh.

Thanks for reading – sorry for the lack of pictures today, due to the need of eating fried pig and taking a brisk walk while the rain holds off I just don’t have the time (Yes ok, I’m just being a bit lazy too)



2 Responses to United Preview

  1. Paul says:

    Glad you enjoy the blog Sam, unfortunately I’ll have to keep plugging it on Twitter, being a fairly new blog battling for readership I need to advertise & capture interest. Sorry it’s plugging your timeline, hopefully other Tweets I send are more interesting

  2. Paul says:

    Usually only go for three tops so apologies if I’ve been overly plugging of late – I shall certainly attempt to reign it in. Appreciate the feed back & would be great if you could get involved in the comments a little more often (re content & football)

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