Stoke Preview: No love lost

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I think we’re all aware of the side we’re likely to field against the knuckle dragging skull smashers of Stoke City Rugby Football club so there is little need to go over that again and I’m certainly not going to waste time discussing the likely formation of Pulis’s side – I don’t know much about military formations anyway.

All I’ll say in today’s short is that below are the reasons the team need to win today and why we Gooners need to get right behind our side…

Exhibit A – The “challenge”

Exhibit B – Defending brutality

The above is about as much as you need to know about Pulis & his henchmen…

Don’t forget that immediately after the game you can watch Steve Bould’s U18’s take on their Chelsea counterparts in a friendly. A brilliant opportunity to get a first hand glimpse at some future Gunners…

Thanks for reading, enjoy the game whatever you’re watching it.

Paul.

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Friday’s Thoughts

They say in football that your most important game is your next one. Why do they say it? Because it’s true…

So whilst Wednesday nights late win over Marseille should still be floating about in the teams subconscious in order to act as a reminder of what can be achieved if you defend responsibly, keep fighting until the end and take your chances when they come to you, the main focus should now be on facing and defeating Stoke City Rugby Football Club on Sunday lunchtime.

Obviously it’s slightly early to be discussing the game in-depth, Wenger won’t hold his pre match presser until later today and also I’m going to need something to discuss tomorrow…

What we do already know is – Carl Jenkinson is set to spend up to two weeks on the sidelines due to the knee injury picked up in France on Wednesday. There will be official confirmation from the club today, but if early reports are correct it’s a real blow for young Jenks, an extended run in the side in Bacary Sagna’s absence would have done him the world of good in terms of progression and perhaps confidence. Let’s hope that his period of recovery is short and he can get back quickly, not only for his own sake but also because we’re short a recognised right back. I would imagine that Johan Djourou will start there on Sunday after coming on in place of Jenkinson in the Velodrome, it seems the most sensible solution. Francis Coquelin has already stated he wouldn’t be confidant playing there and whilst it’s been suggested by some that Laurent Koscielny could make the switch from centre half he is far to important and good in his natural position. Don’t be surprised if young Nicholas Yennaris find himself a seat on the bench, versatile enough to play right back, centre half or in midfield he has impressed in Neil Banfield’s reserves and caught Wenger’s eye.

Kieran Gibbs also misses out again with the injury to his stomach muscles and while the boss has said it is nothing bad he still expects the left back to be out for a week or two yet which gives Andy Santos an extended run in the side. It’s more stop start for Gibbo, I felt he was starting to find his feet and his form so it’s disappointing for him to have to start again, again. Once he does come back he may well find that Santos has done enough to be considered first choice. That said the Brazilian is still finding his feet, which is understandable, and whilst I’m sure he was involved in some hard-hitting encounters during his time in Turkey with Fenerbache, old square head will be treated to a real baptism of fire and ‘Welcome to England’ when he lines up against Tony Pulis’ hired thugs.

Interestingly I did see someone mention on Twitter that a back five of Szczesny, Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Santos might we’ll be the tallest back line we’ve had in some time, whilst that will no doubt be a useful tool in our armoury on Sunday it is yet another shift to our back line. In our fourteen games so far this season we have only started consecutive games with the same back five on two occasions –

Szczesny – Sagna – Vermaelen – Koscielny – Gibbs versus Newcastle and Udinese.

Szczesny – Sagna – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Gibbs versus Swansea and Borussia Dortmund.

That level of instability is always going to have a negative impact, a more settled side can surely only bring more stability.

A bit of good news on that front is that Thomas Vermaelen is set to return to full training today and according to Le Patron the Belgian is ten days away from a first team return. That would suggest that he may not be involved against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge a week tomorrow but as this weekends game is the most important, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Pulis already has a target in mind for January

Stoke played in Disney’s Europa League last night defeating Maccabi Tel-Aviv by three goals to nil at the Britannia. It would have been nice had the knuckle draggers been forced to endure a torrid return trip from some far-flung European outpost but you can’t have it all and we have had an extra days rest/preparation so lets hope we use that to our advantage.

Well I think I may well have discussed enough something I wasn’t going to discuss much, so I’ll leave it there for this morning.

Enjoy your Friday’s, it’s almost football time.

Just a quick note to say you may have noticed I have switched my Twitter username from @Up_TheAsenal to @PaulSavillUTA – If you hadn’t noticed well then now you know. If you don’t much care, fair play to you.

Thanks for reading.

Paul

Bolton Preview

Well there is bad news to start the day off with. Late last night it was revealed by the Arsenal that Jack Wilshere will have to undergo surgery on his right ankle and will be out for a period of “months”. The player himself used his Twitter page to confirm the news and suggest that he hopes to return to action around Christmas time.

This is no doubt a massive blow for the team and young Jack, the bone hasn’t healed whilst in the protective boot he has been wearing for the last month or so and the club have decided that now is the time to take further action in the shape of surgery. It’s very disappointing news but we have to think of Jack’s long term future and this needs to be dealt with correctly and if this operation proves to be just that then it’s surely for the best.

Considering that Jack has only played one full season of first team football with the Gunners, after a brief loan spell at today’s opponents Bolton, we’ve really missed his tenacity in midfield this season. The sooner we can have that desire and drive back in the side the better and I wish Jack well in his continued recovery. At least it gives him more time to listen to the whole Michael Bolton back catalogue.

So, today see’s Owen Coyle’s Bolton Wanderers visit the Emirates.

In league terms the Trotters are having a sorrier time of things then we are at the moment (just), in fact their poor run of form can be traced back to our previous encounter at the Reebok at the end of last season.

Tamir Cohen’s last-minute header, which was celebrated with emotional scenes as the defender revealed a t-shirt commemorating his late father Avi, left the gunners nine points behind leaders and eventual champions Manchester United with four games left to play while Bolton were themselves flying high in eighth place and seemingly pushing to end the season with Europa League football to look forward to. That victory, which all but ended our title chances, was somewhat of a bright spot for Bolton in their end of season darkness. Their previous fixture had seen them go down five goals to zero against Stoke City Rugby Football Club in their FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley and Coyle’s sides final five league games, which followed that win against us, all ended in defeats.

While the opening game of this season saw the Lancashire side get back to winning ways with a 4-0 hammering of newly promoted Queens Park Rangers they have since seen their league form continue in the same vein as it ended last season. Four defeats in four, including a home defeat at the hands of Norwich City last weekend, has seen the sweet taste of victory being confined to the Carling Cup – the second round elimination of Macclesfield and Tuesday nights 0-2 victory at Villa Park.

So in their last fourteen games since, and including, that FA Cup humiliation the Trotters have won only four times and have been beaten in the other ten games scoring eighteen goals and conceding thirty-two in the process. That run looks like this – LWLLLLLWLWLLLW.

At any other time you would look at that and expect Bolton to arrive in London tomorrow and be little more than cannon fodder for the gunners but as we all know our own form is hardly that of a side you would back to win the contest.

Since that late and currently familiar capitulation we’ve managed to win only five of our own fourteen games in all competitions. We’ve picked up four draws and been beaten no less than six times. In this period we’ve found the back of the net on nineteen occasions yet we’ve been forced to pick the ball out of the back of our own goal on no less than twenty-six, meaning our run only appears marginally better than this weeks opposition due to the addition of the letter ‘D’ – LWLLDDWLWLWDLW.

What is clear is that whilst both sides have the ability to score goals we both also have a penchant for letting them in too, so on paper we should maybe expect this to be a high scoring encounter which would make for another great game for the neutral in which we compete.

The team news is pretty much as expected, Yossi Benayoun is out with the ‘strain’ which he alluded to in his Tweet on Thursday (turns out it’s a thigh strain, not an eye strain from reading without sufficient light) and Johan Djourou misses out with a hamstring injury. Arsene Wenger has suggested that they may both be back for the North London Derby on October 2nd but will defiantly miss the Champions League clash with Olympiacos on Wednesday as well as this afternoons fixture.

Tommy Rosicky is back in the squad whilst Bacary Sagna & Aaron Ramsey both came through fitness tests yesterday morning so are likely to start.

It will be interesting to see who takes up the left back position, using our last two fixtures as a barometer I wouldn’t say there is much between Andy Santos and Kieran Gibbs who have each had a game to in which to state their case. I suspect Wenger might go with the Brazilian but I wouldn’t be confidant enough to put money on it.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may have done enough to win himself a place on the bench after his performance in the win over Shrewsbury earlier this week, similarly I think Franny Coquelin’s performance in the same game will see him take us a place amongst the subs ahead of Frimmers.

Other than that I would have thought it will be very much as we were against Blackburn Rovers last weekend but with Theo coming in for Andrey Arshavin.

My line up would be –

Szczesny – Sagna – Mertz – Kozzer – Andy Santos – Song – Mickey – Rambo – Gervinho – Theo – RVP.

Subs: Fabianski – Iggy – Gibbs – Franny – Arshavin – AOC – Chamakh.

I think we’ll see a home win and the collection of three much-needed points, but I’m not sure it’ll be an easy victory. One thing I will guarantee is that Kevin Davies will be booked – the lumbering forward has collected a total of eleven bookings in games against us, that is more than any player against any one side in Premier League history.

I’m really looking forward to the game, it’s a traditional three o’clock kick off and that always sits well with me. Enjoy it wherever you’re watching and if you happen to be up in the North Bank sat next to a guy who clearly needs a shave then chances are it’ll either be me or a tramp who has somehow managed to get into the ground.

Thanks for reading

Paul.

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