Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Wenger gives final chance to miss firing players | Fabregas causes storm

Morning Gooners.

With Manchester United dropping two points last night with a goalless draw against Newcastle, our game with Tottenham tonight has even more significance.

It's already a huge game because it is a north London derby, but knowing a win would take us to within four points of Alex Ferguson's men at the top of the table will no doubt give us even more incentive to win tonight.

That is also the reason why Spurs will want to stop us at all costs. This title race has been like few others I've seen us involved in. We seem to be taunted at every drop point because of the opportunities Manchester United give us. It's like they're a cat with a mouse, playing with us and not wanting to kill us because they're amused with playing with us.

Tonight's result will swing Gooners one way or another. We'll either be completely overjoyed (a win) or depressingly angry and annoyed (a draw / the only other option) because we were unable to take the opportunity offered to us by Manchester United.

In terms of early team news, we have everyone back fit apart from Thomas Vermaelen and Lukasz Fabianski.

Which means that Bacray Sagna should return to right back and Alex Song is able to start in midfield. It will be interesting to see which of Jens Lehmann and Manuel Almunia is chosen to sit on the bench, with the Spaniard supposedly fit again after his knee injury.

The manager chose not to speak to the media yesterday ahead of the game, giving his only pre-match interview to Arsenal TV Online.

He urged the players to give their all in the final six games of the season. As we know, anything can and certainly will happen.

"Let's give absolutely everything to win this one. We are not in a period where we can calculate. I believe it is important that we give absolutely everything to win our next game.
"We will play our game, don't worry. We want to show we have the mental dimension to play for this club.
"The players want to show that and there is no better way to do that than against Spurs."
It is like Arsene is issuing an ultimatum to his players that they have to come good tonight. We see him talk about mental strength all the time and I believe it's because he's trying to make the players believe they have it. I don't think this team is mentally tough. I think we are very fragile really.

We know the players have only themselves to blame for the tangle they got into prior to the Liverpool goal. They should be able to see out the remainder of the game having gone 1-0 up in the 98th minute. Robin van Persie has described the concession of so many points when we've been in winning positions as "criminal" and it's hard to disagree with him. And this to my mind is yet another situation where we've been unable mentally to deal with the pressure.

However I don't think there is anything which can be done until the end of the season when the manager can make changes again to his personnel. We lack character in the team and you can't teach that to players. 

Elsewhere, Cesc Fabregas has given an interview to Spanish magazine DonBalon which has been picked up by the English media.

The media have gone crazy over it. Everything from Fabregas issuing a warning to Arsenal, to blasting the club to claiming there is no wow players. The Daily Mail even goes so far to suggest that Fabregas believes Arsene Wenger would have been sacked if he were managing a club in Spain. 

For a more reasonable response, read the Daily Telegraph's translated version of the Q&A. There is nothing in what Fabregas says in the interview which is unreasonable and I bet he would speak with Arsene Wenger frankly and honestly as he does in the interview.

For me it is a side issue. Something we should not be concentrating on today, when we've got a huge match tonight where three points can put us straight back into the title race.

I'll be back later with a team preview but until then enjoy your Wednesday.

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.

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