Friday, 15 October 2010

Has Wenger axed Fabregas? Cesc's surprising omission, Storey's verdict on Wenger's Arsenal

Morning Gooners.

Well it's finally here. The end of the week meaning that real football is just one day away. It'll be great to get back to the Grove tomorrow, bump into those familiar faces and enjoy a few pints with my Gooner mates.

We'll start with some early team news. Arsene Wenger said in his interview with the official site that we can expect to see Nicklas Bendtner and Kieran Gibbs involved in the squad and also Theo Walcott has a chance to be involved.

But we'll still be without Cesc Fabregas (hamstring), Manuel Almunia (elbow), Thomas Vermaelen (achilles), Bacray Sagna (thigh), Robin van Persie (ankle) and Aaron Ramsey (leg).

The manager said:
"Nicklas Bendtner is back in the squad and Kieran Gibbs is back too. 
"Cesc is very, very short and unlikely to be involved [on Saturday]. He has a little chance for Tuesday.
"Sagna is ten days, Vermaelen is ten days, Almunia is a question of days but Van Persie looks to be a bit longer."
I suppose the most surprising thing about that is our captain, after declaring himself fit two days after the Chelsea game, is not involved.

I can only imagine that the medical staff want to make sure he is 100% before putting him back in the team. There is no point him having a set back now when we have got a stack of midfielders in good form. We need him to be right both physically and mentally, especially as we play Manchester City next weekend.

As for the rest, it is good to have Bendtner back in the fold. He'll add to our attacking threat and offer us an alternative striker up front. It will also be interesting to see where he'll find himself in the pecking order. I would hazard a guess at behind: Arshavin, Chamakh, Walcott, Narsi and Van Persie if all of those players are fit.

It just goes to show what an amazing team we could have if all our players were fit.

With the manager suggesting Sanga and Vermaelen could be fit in ten days, that would make them available for the trip to Eastlands a week Sunday. Almunia could also be in contention for that one as well.

However we've got two important games before we should start thinking about the City clash. 

Alex McLeish's side will provide us with a test and one we should not take lightly. Unfortunately against West Brom we just did not turn up. We cannot make that mistake again. I'm expecting a good atmosphere at the Grove. It will be spiced up no doubt because of recent encounters there have been some tough tackling handed out by the blue side from Birmingham.

And of course they may sign that song about Eduardo, which caused great annoyance the last time they played us at the Grove amongst the home fans.

I was surprised by the suggestion on another Arsenal blog that the home fans might boo Alex Hleb. I can't see any reason why we would. Yes, the way he engineered a move away from the club left a bad taste in the mouth because it wasn't done in the Arsenal way. But he was so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I don't regret him leaving. In fact I think we are better without him. I hope the Gooners attending the game give him a polite clap and then when the game gets underway forget about him.

Wenger will give more definitive news on the team to play Birmingham later when he hosts his pre-match press conference.

Moving to matters off the field and more quotes from Cesc Fabregas emerged yesterday following an interview he gave on Spanish radio station Cadena Cope.

Our captain revealed that as well as already known interest in him from Barcalona, there was also contact from Real Madrid.

He said:
"I maintain that I was right because (to play for Barcelona) is a dream I've had since childhood.
"The truth is that the coach (Wenger) is like a second father to me. I told him what I thought. There were difficult moments.
"In the end, when I spoke to Wenger he told me no - he was very emphatic, that the transfer was impossible.
"I'm satisfied for all parties. It wasn't to be and that's that, though in my head I keep thinking it could have been a good opportunity.
"But here (at Arsenal) I have everything. I'm still happy. I'm very comfortable here, I like the club, lead the team, play football. We just need to start winning titles because we have a wealth of quality. A winning mentality is missing."
Now none of this should be any real surprise to us. We knew he was interested in moving back to Barcelona from the moment he didn't release a statement through the official website as soon as the rumours started last summer.

I think the most telling observation Fabregas makes is about the winning mentality. Without wanting to labour a point, five years without any sort of trophy, no matter how unillustrious in Wenger's eyes it is, could have proved the spark needed to take us to the next level.

Perhaps that is why he may take the Carling Cup more seriously this season. Build the foundations and then perhaps there will be more to follow.

Had we beaten Chelsea in the league cup final in 2008, could we have gone on and picked up more silverware from there? I'd hazard a guess we'd be better placed to than we are at this point in time.

Lets hope that we can take advantage of the near miss of Fabregas leaving and do something to rectify the situation by winning something this season. Who knows, if we start the ball rolling now, perhaps he could still be here after next summer.

Finally, Arsenal legend Peter Storey has been talking about Arsene Wenger's current side over on the Mirror Football website. Well worth a read. Can't say I agree with it all, but in places there are some interesting points.

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