Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Oxlade-Chamberlain and Park called on to perform -Jack set for early comeback?

Morning Gooners.

Today is the start of six massive days which could turn around our season. Win today against Wolves and we take a position in the top four in our own right for the first time this campaign. Results went our way yesterday with Chelsea and Liverpool dropping points at home to Fulham and Blackburn respectively. So this afternoon's match is all the more important that we ensure we make it nine wins from our last 11 league games.

I've said in previous weeks that there is a mentality about this team which wasn't evident last term. It's obviously down to the change in personnel the manager has brought in. Last season I would have suggested that the team would have looked at the league table, seen where Wolves are and seen we were higher and expected to win without putting the effort in. This year that mindset has gone.

As well as a change in players it could also be down to the bad start to the season. We know that every point is now vital if we're going to finish in the top four come May. We saw Fulham come to the Grove last month and take a point off of us. That was an off day for a team who had days earlier given everything to ensure we won our fifth Champions League group game against Dortmund and given us automatic promotion to the knock out stages of the competition. This afternoon we need to make sure a similar slip up doesn't take place.

Because of the London Underground tube drivers strike, the delay to today's match has given us six not five days of rest since the victory over Aston Villa. However it does mean we now have a day less to recover for our next game against QPR on Saturday.

The manager will be looking at his team closely to see who needs more recovery time. You can't believe that any player, perhaps apart from Wojciech Szczesny will start in all three games. And Wenger has been talking about how the players on the fringes of his squad now have a vital part to play, especially given the departures of Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho to the Africa Cup of Nations next month.

He's told Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Ju Young Park that their adaption time is now over and it's time that they both started to deliver.

Wenger said:
"Park has to step up. The adaptation period for him is over now, so he has to show he has the quality to play for us. I believe he has. We also have Arshavin and Chamberlain, who is now ready to play."
He added:
"[Oxlade Chamberlain] will play games. He is not far. He is a talented boy. It’s all there. He just needs that toughness in the game. I could have brought him on the other night [in the 2-1 win against Aston Villa]. He is ready. He is just missing experience at the top level."
It's been clear to see that Wenger hasn't yet given The Ox a chance in the Premier League apart from the run out at Old Trafford. He's made the bench on a number of occasions but when the manager has come to make a substitution, he's preferred experience over youth. Whilst Oxlade Chamberlain has been afforded some minutes in the league, Park is a player who's got none against his name. Of course the Korean has a van Persie sized problem to get past and with the form the Dutchman is in at the moment, that's not an easy problem to solve.

Neither does our one striker formation help give game time to either Park or Chamakh. The Captain has started all but one of our league games this season, Chamakh given the nod in our 3-1 win over Stoke at the Grove in October. Park on the other hand has had to settle for a role in the Carling Cup team and 62 minutes in the Champions League against Marseille. Personally I think we should be expecting more from the Korean who after all is on fire for his country.

I don't think Oxlade Chammberlain, Park or Chamakh will start this afternoon. Van Persie has to start to ensure we continue our forward momentum. There is no fresh team news. The manager said on Friday that Johan Djourou had a chance to play, but I expect pretty much the  same team which started against Aston Villa to continue again this afternoon, with the exception being Alex Song being recalled in place of Emmanuel Frimpong.


Coquelin - Koscielny - Mertesacker - Vermaelen

Song - Arteta

Walcott - Ramsey - Gervinho

van Persie

Elsewhere there is more positive news regarding Jack Wilshere. The manager has said he expect him to start running this week and to be available for a return to first team action at the end of January.

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