Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Cesc speaks of his return - Wenger warned off midfielder - Partizan victory a must - Super Samir handed gong - Almunia on his way?

Morning Gooners.

Our thoughts turn to the Champions League today as Arsenal will welcome Partizan Belgrade to the Grove tomorrow for our final Group H game.

A win is a must and I'm sure whatever team Arsene Wenger chooses to use, we'll come through the game with a victory. Thinking anything else might happen but a win is not worth considering. It would be frankly embarrassing if we didn't win tomorrow night.

Bacray Sanga, who I expect to start the Partizan match on the bench, told The Sun after Saturday's game:
"We're feeling good right now. It was a difficult game against Fulham at the weekend and we did quite well.
"Now we just want to play our best football ever and qualify."
And that has to be the aim. Continue in the right direction. Play good football and win the match in front of you. We have to concentrate as that has been one of our downfalls this season. We appear to switch off at times - Tottenham and Villa are perfect examples of that.

Perhaps we thought those games were too easy. But until we learn to put teams to the sword and kill them off, we're always going to have a nagging doubt in the back of our minds that we could have a lapse in concentration and the opposition scores.

You can't not but worry about our defensive form. We're likely to ship goals at any point in a game, but even with a two goal lead as a supporter you're on edge. 

One player who has made sure we've won important matches this season is Samir Nasri. He was named November player of the month yesterday and has spoken about us building a mentality of winning important games.

He said after the game at the weekend:
"It was still in the head, the game against Tottenham. At Aston Villa it was the same thing, but we scored, and against Fulham as well.
"We need to work on this. If we want to be a great team and a big team, when we are 1-0 up at home, we have to win, and without any scares."
And that is something which would ease the blood pressure of lots of Gooners I'm sure. One of the issues as I see it is we've not had a settled back five for any length of time so far this term.

Until we can get our best five defensive players starting games week in, week out, we're going to look shaky at the back. That and the fact two of our summer signings have been thrown in at the deep end and I'm sure Arsene Wenger never envisaged Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci playing this many games by now.

There was an "story" on website Goal.com yesterday saying the club were open to offers for Manuel Almunia in the January transfer window. Hardly earth shattering news. I've written on the blog before that I think we've seen the last of Almunia in an Arsenal shirt.

The website who wrote the story is hardly a trusted source, so make of it what you will.

And talking of goal keepers, The Sun link us with a move for Blackpool's Matt Gilks who's contract negotiations with The Seasiders have stalled.



The same newspaper link us with a move for West Brom playmaker Borja Valero who is on loan at Villarreal.

Cesc Fabregas has spoken of his potential return to first team action.

He said:
"My hamstrings are feeling good, and my body feels good and rested. 
"The Manchester United game is the target, so hopefully we can make it happen."
I would only want Cesc to play at Old Trafford next week if he was 100%. We can't go through the season with him coming in and out of the team. We need to have a consistent team if we are going to win the title.

One player who the manager doesn't believe we'll see until the new year is Thomas Vermaelen. An article on the official site says a January target date is more realistic than returning for the Chelsea match.

Elsewhere Southampton boss Nigel Adkins has said the south coast club aren't interested in selling teenage midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The manager will speak to the media later ahead of the Belgrade match, so we'll get the team news then. 

We know that Laurent Koscielny will miss the game with concussion, so that should mean Johan Djourou will continue in the centre of defence.

I'm expecting some rotation. Kieran Gibbs to come in at left back and Emmanuel Eboue to replace Bacray Sagna on the right hand side.

Alex Song could get a rest and Denilson is the obvious candidate to replace him. Perhaps we might even see Robin Van Persie start in place of Tomas Rosicky.

More on that later when we hear from the manager.

Follow Ashburton Grove on Twitter, chatting Arsenal throughout the day. To receive the blog everyday you can subscribe via e-mail or take the RSS feed to your favourite reader.
Smai

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