Friday, April 10, 2009

Start of a tough week and a half

Wigan tomorrow in what starts a very difficult week and a half. Holding fourth is still a driving concern, in spite of the new six-point gap between Arsenal and Aston Villa, who play Everton on Sunday. There are a couple of days before welcoming Villarreal in the return tie in the Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, then the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea next weekend and the match against Liverpool, who will still be pushing United for every point, just days after that (and to be honest, that one snuck up on me). 

As much fun as it has been to watch Arsenal recapture some momentum and "play with the handbrake off" as Arsene has been saying, the prospect of our still shaky center defense and a raw goalkeeper in Fabianski (if Almunia is still out) facing those teams is not a happy one. 

And this is all just in time to welcome a new spate of injuries that'll leave an interesting look to the team tomorrow. 

Eduardo and Van Persie are still expected to miss out. Gallas is now counted out for the season which will bring in Johan Djourou in his stead. Djourou has done well in his roles this season but Gallas was an in-form player before the injury and Johan is still rather unproven against the big boys. Gael Clichy, one of Arsenal's very best, has been ruled out for a couple of weeks meaning Wenger will turn to either the very young and untested Gibbs or the well past it Silvestre at left back. Arshavin will come back into the side on the left and I'd be shocked if Fabregas got into the match from the start. He's just played two games after a lengthy lay-off and he'll definitely be needed against Villarreal, Chelsea and Liverpool - all within a week. In all, the Wigan match could end up as one where the team just hopes to escape away from home. 

While it's speaking of a future hope, I still look to Fabregas to bring a stronger desire and drive into the team as he asserts himself as captain. We know well that his form was poor earlier in the year after a long season and then the summer with Spain. There's no doubt the time-off will have helped him and fortunately in his time away there weren't too many points dropped (lots of draws, but no losses). So hopefully Arsene can keep him tucked away on the bench to rest up for the rest of these crucial matches. And hopefully he can keep coming in with the influence he's shown thus far in his return.

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