Monday, 13 December 2010

Szczesny handed shock start? - Nasri a "villain" - Cesc ready to fly

Morning Gooners.

Finally the waiting is nearly over. It's been a torturous weekend. No football for us until 8pm tonight. That's a full 118 hours and 30 minutes since our last game since Partizan. 

And I suppose because it's a big match plus a weekend where I've been left with nothing to do apart from get on with the dreaded Christmas shopping, that I've become a tad impatient.

Another reason for my impatience is probably because I believe we've got a real chance to win tonight's game.

Arsene Wenger thinks we can go to Old Trafford and win. He said:
"At the moment, we are in a strong position in the league. We go away for a big game. One or two of the big games, we need to win away from home. That is what is at stake for us.
"It's more psychological for the rest of the season than a decider, mathematically.
"They have recent history going for them and, in fairness, they have always big teams. But we have built a team and slowly come up and now we have an opportunity to show we are ready for the championship title."
Whilst losing is not the end of the world, I just has this feeling we could come away with a positive result tonight. Last season we handed them the game on a plate. It was our three points until those howlers from Almunia and Diaby.

But I expect tonight to be different.

We've proved away from home we can play our own game this season. And have been unlucky not to take points at Sunderland, Liverpool and Chelsea - where had we taken our chances we might have come away with a better result than the defeat we ended up with.

Our game away from the Grove is perfected. We know that Alex Song will be more disciplined tonight. That he'll have to sit in front of the back for and not venture too far into the United final third. In some ways it would be nice if he was like one of those mythical central defenders of old who would get a nose bleed when they cross the half way line. I really don't want to be shouting at my TV tonight: "Get back Song!"

Arshavin and Nasri can turn the game within a moment with a piece of individual magic and Chamakh works so hard for the team and offers us something different up front.

There doesn't seem like there  will be a place in the team for Theo Walcott. He's not been able to get back into the team since his injury which he picked up on international duty in September.

Obviously it's frustrating for the young man but it is something Arsene Wenger understands.

The Frenchman said:
"Frankly I can understand that because for me Theo Walcott is doing well. For me he is not an impact player he is a regular player.
"At the moment he does not play as often as he should but he will play soon.
"In fairness, Theo is fantastic. His attitude and behaviour has been absolutely great. What do you expect from a player who is not playing?"
Unfortunately this is something the players are going to get used to. With a bigger squad than last season it's going to be tough keeping everyone happy.

And with Nasri playing like a man possessed, there really is no way Walcott can force his way back into the team in his preferred position on the right hand side of attack.

If players don't become frustrated you know they don't really care. It's how the manager deals with it which is key. And so far I think he's got it spot on.

On the subject of player power, the manager was asked why Samir Nasri was cast as the perpetrator of all things bad in the French national team prior to the World Cup and whether that had been a motivator for his fellow countryman.

He said:
"It was not only not going to the World Cup that was a frustration. He was singled out as the villain in the squad and they [said they] would do well without him.
"I could not understand why he was a villain in the French national team because on a daily basis he is an enjoyable guy.
"Since then, what is positive is that he has turned the situation to his own favour. I believe if you have mental strength you can turn the situation around."
Nasri was one of my favourite players last season and is becoming a firm favourite with everyone else this term. He's put his World Cup disappointment behind him and that is turning out to be a positive for Arsenal.

The main team news concerns who might start in goal. The Sun says Lukasz Fabianski is struggling with a leg injury and that Wojciech Szczesny could start tonight in place of him.

Nothing official has come out through Arsenal, so we'll have to wait and find out later.

Cesc Fabregas tweeted last night:
"Finished training now ready for football all afternoon in front of the TV at 16hr, 18hr and 20hr!"
No word on whether he'll be on the plane to fly to Manchester later. The Daily Mirror suggest he's on the way to being fit, so we'll have to wait and see what the manager decides.

I'll post a match preview later, with my thoughts on who will make the starting line up later. Until then, enjoy your Monday.

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