Thursday, 19 January 2012

Arteta losing fitness battle -Chamakh staying? -Rosicky off? -Swedish Neymar handed trial

Morning Gooners.

At the moment it appears to be all about injuries. At this rate it will be a miracle if we can put together a squad of  18 players for Sunday's game.

Despite being given hope yesterday by an Evening Standard report that said Mikel Arteta would likely be fit to start Sunday's game, the Daily Express pour cold water of that idea by reporting the Spaniard hasn't been involved in training for the past two days due to the calf injury he's nursing.

They also report Theirry Henry is facing a fitness test to see what, if any, part the Frenchman will play in Sunday's game. While the Frenchman took part in light training yesterday, and a scan has not highlighted any serious damage, there still remains a doubt over his involvement against last season's league champions.

While there was some hope that Bacary Sagna would be available for Sunday's game but it appears that the game with Aston Villa the following weekend is a more realistic comeback date. However the return of Thomas Vermaelen will give us more defensive stability, if the manager feels he's fit enough to play.

With Sagna not yet available and Vermaelen expected to return our defence picks itself for the game. Midfield will be a concern without Arteta. Ramsey played the deep lying role last weekend, a position he's unfamiliar with, alongside Alex Song. You would expect the manager to stick with that pairing if the Spaniard isn't available.

That leaves us with attack. Robin van Persie is the first name on the team sheet and despite his woeful performance in Wales Theo Walcott is certain to be a starter. That leaves us with two positions to fill, which were occupied by Yossi Benayoun and Andrey Arshavin. Does the manager stick with them or make a switch?

I know we've all probably suppressed the game at Old Trafford in August, but who can forget how light-weight our bench was that day: Fabianski, Miquel, Ozyakup, Lansbury, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sunu, Chamakh.

Whilst our bench last weekend wasn't as devoid of experience, Henry apart, you wondered if any of those players (Almunia, Yennaris, Squillaci, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henry, Park) would be able to come on and change the game.

It's an area the manager will need to address before the transfer window closes.

One player set to stay at the club - until the summer at least - is Marouane Chamakh.

The Moroccan said:

"I am relaxed about my future. I've spoken with the coach [Wenger] and I'm staying with Arsenal after the Africa Cup of Nations. 
"I think Wenger has confidence in me. It was that reason that I left Bordeaux to join Arsenal."

I like Chamakh and thought he did fantastically in the first five months of his Arsenal career. But since he was dropped for van Persie, he's not looked the same player. I hope the Cup of Nations can reignite him as a striker and we see the same Chamakh we signed from France when he returns next month. Whether he stays at the club in the summer will be linked with whether the manager can persuade Robin to sign a new deal. If RVP puts pen to paper you would have thought that Chamakh would be allowed to leave.

Another player who has been at the centre of transfer speculation is Andrey Arshavin. With reports linking him to a move to Italy yesterday, the Daily Star say he's on his way back to Russia in the summer. Like Chamakh, I think the Russian's future is also interlinked with whether RVP and Walcott sign new deals. If they don't, I think Arshavin will stay. If they do, he'll be sold.

And while we're on transfer speculation, the Daily Express link Tomas Rosicky with a move to Fulham.

The Daily Mail say we've missed out on signing 17-year-old  Panathinaikos goalkeeper Stefanos Kapino. They say he's going to sign for Inter Milan in a £2m deal.

Meanwhile the Mail also report we've handed a trial to Swedish teenager Niclas Eliasson. The Falkenbergs FF player, dubbed the Swedish Neymar in his homeland, is at London Colney for a week to see if he can impress the Arsenal coaching set up into handing him a contract.

Some good news to end, The Guardian report Jack Wilshere is well ahead of schedule and should be back in full training next week, with a view to playing first team football again after two weeks of "conditioning".

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