Saturday, 10 December 2011

Arsenal at 125 -Wenger praises "The Boss" -Farewell Arshavin, Chamakh, Almunia and Squillaci?

Morning Gooners.

Well it's not every day your club celebrates it's 125th anniversary and for us Gooners we're lucky enough to be alive to see it with our own eyes. Yesterday saw the unveiling of three statues to three legends who played important roles in the success of our club. I was jealous reading the tweets of those who were there as the covers came off and the bronze casts of Herbert Chapman, Tony Adams and Thierry Henry were displayed for the first time. I can't wait to see them at the ground later.

Whilst there will be off the field activities as we mark the anniversary, we cannot forget first and foremost that the day will only be a success if the team wins the game on the football pitch. Arsene Wenger has said his players will be focused and that the events around the ground won't prove to be a distraction.

Team news from the press conference is that Andre Santo is out - and his injury could be worse than first feared - which means that without Kieran Gibbs who is still not ready to return to first team duties we are short at left back. Wenger confirmed he'd play Thomas Vermaelen on the left and draft Laurent Koscielny in to play alongside Per Mertesacker in the heart of the defence. Without the injured Bacary Sanga and Carl Jenkinson, you would expect Johan Djourou to start on the right.

The rest of the team picks itself as the manager will revert to the goalkeeper, midfielders and attackers who beat Wigan last Saturday.
So the team will likely be:

Djourou - Koscielny - Mertesacker - Vermaelen

Song - Arteta

Walcott - Ramsey - Gervinho

van Persie

The manager confirmed that Lukasz Fabianski had not recovered from a knee injury picked up at Olympiacos and that Vito Mannone had suffered a shoulder injury. It means neither of Szczesny's preferred understudies are available this afternoon to sit on the bench which means a return to the match day squad for Manuel Almunia.

Whilst the Spaniard has fallen down the pecking order, he's still the most experienced option in the squad and has far more experience than James Shea or Damian Martinez. Whilst his decision making is not the best, he is a good shot stopper. Whilst it's unfortunate that Fabianski and Mannone are out, it is unlikely we'll see Almunia back in the net for us.

An old boy who will be facing his old club for the first time this afternoon is Mikel Arteta. The Boss has certainly made an impact since his move from Everton and added the extra maturity in the spine of our team which we were lacking since the departure of Gilberto Silva.

Wenger was talking up the importance of the player he signed on deadline day in a £10m deal.

He said:
"He was a fantastic addition. We completed it at 9.45pm on August 31. It went to the wire. 
"He has adjusted very well and he has the mental level to be at this club. 
"We watched him many times before he got the cruciate injury. Then it took him a while to get back to his normal level. Now, he is back to normal."
Whilst Arteta doesn't have the flair of Fabregas or Nasri, he does the simple things well. He reads the game and has a know how which the fore-mentioned players didn't. And whilst he didn't slot right into the team, after a period of adjustment he's come good. You can't really see this Arsenal team playing without him. He keeps us ticking over. Makes the momentum of the game go at our pace and is probably the best passer on the pitch.

The rest of the talk this morning centres around Thierry Henry and his admission that he would think about becoming Arsenal manager one day. The Frenchman also talks up Robin van Persie's role within the team.

The manager was asked about the future of Ryo Miyaichi and whether the teenager would be going on loan. He said he wouldn't rule it out because the player needs games. The Daily Mail suggest that Wenger will look to move on Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh, Sebastien Squillaci and Manuel Almunia. I can't see it happening in January, but next summer who knows. Whilst Wenger ruled us out of a move for Chelsea defender Alex at his press conference.

For some extra reading, have a look at the Daily Telegraph were former Arsenal striker Alan Smith interviews his old captain and team mate Tony Adams.

There is plenty going on around the ground and the club are advising those attending today's game to get to their seats from 2.15pm to take in all the pre-match celebrations. No matter where you're watching the game today, enjoy yourself and be proud to be a Gooner.

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