Saturday, 22 October 2011

Chamakh set to replace RVP for Stoke? -Wenger targets striker on free transfer

Morning Gooners.

It feels weird waking up today and not having an Arsenal match to watch later. The second successive Sunday match for us has put my body clock out of sync. It means we've got to wait until 1.30pm tomorrow for our beloved team to continue to progress up the table.

Arsene Wenger held his pre-match press conference yesterday and there were only really a couple of topics of conversation.

We'll start with the team news though and it looks likely the manager will decide to play Johan Djourou at right back tomorrow. With Carl Jenkinson out of the next two matches and facing a race against time for the Chelsea clash next weekend, I can only see Wenger going with the Swiss international on  the right of his defence.

I really can't see the Mertesacker/Koscielny partnership being broken up, not until Thomas Vermaelen returns to full fitness (after returning to training with the rest of the first team squad at London Colney yesterday). If Djourou, Mertesacker and Koscielny are all in the starting 11 it will be interesting to see who the manager uses on the bench to cover the defensive positions. Will it be Sebastien Squillaci, Ignasi Miquel or both of them?

Looking at the team you would have thought Gervinho will be handed a start ahead of either Andrey Arshavin or Theo Walcott. And the only other decision the manager has to make is whether he continues with Tomas Rosicky or recalls Aaron Ramsey to the starting 11.

Yesterday the manager was talking about whether he might rest Robin van Persie at some point. However with the striker in such good form and in full fitness, it makes dropping him to the bench harder.

Wenger said:

"On Monday I decide always to rest him, and on Friday I [decide to] play him again! 
"It is always a difficult decision to make at the moment, but I will have to do it soon. 
"We will assess everybody on Saturday, then I make the decision for Sunday. I will have to rotate a little bit."

The Frenchman's options are Marouane Chamakh or Chu Young Park if he does decide to rest van Persie. Personally I can't see the Dutchman being dropped. He'll have five days to recover between the Stoke game and the Chelsea game because he won't be in Carling Cup action on Tuesday night.

But if Wenger does decides to leave him out the only option for me is Chamakh. We saw that when he was given a chance against Blackburn he took it and if we can play to his strengths he will score. Park has done well on international duty but by all accounts is still finding his way in English football. I would expect him to start against Bolton in the Carling Cup.

Which is where we had all expected to see Abou Diaby returning to action. But he's still two weeks away according to the manager. I think we've all learnt by now to not expect a player back in action in the time Arsenal predict. You only get disappointed.

The other topic of conversation was regarding whether players who play in the European Championship should also be allowed to play in the Olympic Games. I think it's fair to say that Arsene Wenger is not a fan.

He said:

"The Olympics start on 27 July and finish in mid-August. Imagine a player who has played at the Euros and the Olympic Games – you can't use him after that. It's impossible. The Euros finish on 1 July and we start training on 4/5 July. 
"That means we will not have the players who were at the Euros and so if we are losing players to the Olympics as well, I think I will have to practise all summer to play because we will not have any players. It cannot work. 
"If you look at the organisation of the whole summer, it makes life impossible for the club and for the players, especially. I don't know what people think when they organise these competitions."

We could be badly hit if Stuart Pearce comes calling because Olympic players can only be under the age of 23 expect for three over aged players. So the likes of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could all be called up. That's half our team!

A decision needs to be made about which players will play in Euro 2012 and who will play in London 2012 because it is not realistic for them to play in both tournaments. If those players I listed go to the Olympics, it would leave us desperately short come the start of next season and we could - worst case scenario - end up with a similar start to the season to this one.

I'm glad our manager isn't the only one who can see such lunacy ahead. Sir Alex is also on the same page with this one as well. However I don't think this is a battle we're going to win any time soon. It's going to be long and drawn out, much in the way Wilshere's involvement in the Under 21's European Championships was won in the last few months.

There is speculation we could be in with a chance of signing Wigan's Hugo Rodallega - who will be available on a free transfer next summer, according to the Daily Mail. A name who has been linked with before and the manager has said nice things about but not a player who we've gone and made a bid for. Seems unlikely to me.

And finally, a new post in our series of experiences of Gooners on Away Days. This time Kristonel Elwe's first hand account of Arsenal's trip to Marseille.

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