Friday, 13 January 2012

Midfield options -Wenger won't sell Chamakh -Henry faces fitness test -Striker off?

Morning Gooners.

Here we are at another Friday and it seems as though it is a long wait until we play on Sunday. I like it when we play midweek as well as at the weekend, it seems to make the week go quicker. Although it is better for the players when we don't play nine games in a month, like we did last January.

Our FA Cup fourth round tie with Aston Villa has been scheduled for January 29, with a 4pm kick off. Yet another Sunday game. It also means that our Premier League match with Bolton which is currently organised for January 31st could be moved. It seems strange that the powers at be couldn't organise our FA Cup match for either Friday night or just left it as a Saturday game with the knowledge that we're due to play that league match the following Tuesday.

Ideally the league match will be moved but that doesn't help those Gooners who have already booked time off work and arranged travel to the match. We've seen with the festive period that the squad don't take too kindly to having to play within 48 hours of another league match, so hopefully something sensible can be arranged.

The most interesting thing which appears to have happened at the club in the last 24 hours is a web chat involving Alex Song, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Thierry Henry.

Ramsey - fresh from the controversy of asking to be involved in deciding who should be the next Wales manager - said he was looking forward to playing with Jack Wilshere when he returns from injury.

The Welshman said:
"Jack is a great player for us; he had a really good season last year. It’s only a good thing to have competition for places. 
"It’s been quite weird because [initially] I was playing, so Jack went out on loan, then I got injured, so Jack played. We haven’t really had a chance to play together yet in the league. It will be good to have the competition." 
Personally I don't see that Wilshere is competition for Ramsey. They don't play in the same position for one, although Jack was tried out in the advance midfield role last season during some games. Aaron always plays closer to Robin, whilst Jack is in a deeper role, closer to Alex Song or who ever the holding midfielder of the day is.

I'm quite interested to see how the manager will slot four players into three positions. Of course it would mean that all four of Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta and Song have to be fit at the same time. It's a great problem to have though, that has to be said.

I think Wilshere is in reality fighting with Arteta for his place in the team. That's where the Englishman played last season alongside Song. Perhaps the manager will play Arteta as the defensive midfielder and give Song a break for some games and bring Wilshere in. That's another option. But then we've also got Francis Coquelin. So many good midfield options, something we've not been blessed with in recent seasons.

There was also more love for Theirry Henry, this time from Kieran Gibbs and Lukaz Fabianski.

The Times report that if Henry passes a fitness test tomorrow he could be in line to start against Swansea because Andrey Arshavin has failed to regain his form. Personally I think it's highly unlikely that Henry would be given a starting role just yet. He's played 22 minutes in the FA Cup after not playing a match for a few months. Plus whilst I agree that Arshavin isn't in the best of form, I don't think he can be dropped after just one game.

The Russian appears to be a player short of confidence but on Monday night was involved in everything. He put in a shift as well, which is not something we've seen a lot of. I think that Wenger has to give him a run of games to try and find that form. There is no use playing him one week and dropping him the next, not now that Gervinho is away at the Africa Cup of Nations. I'm sure Henry will start for us at some point, I just don't think now is the right time.

The Times also reports the manager has turned down a bid from Fiorentina to sign Marouane Chamakh on loan for the rest of the season because they say Arsenal would rather sell the player. I would be amazed if something didn't happen with the Moroccan next summer, but that might in part be down to what Robin van Persie decides to do.

And talking of strikers, Matías Suarez is reported to have agreed a pre-contract deal to join the club in the summer. The 23-year-old was named Belgian player of the year last season. There is also reports that Rangers have asked about the availability of young striker Benik Afobe, who they'd like to take on loan.

Early team news for Sunday is that Per Mertesacker has overcome his illness and should start alongside Laurent Koscielny in the heart of the defence. Johan Djourou and Tomas Rosicky are also now fit. I expect we'll hear more from the manager when he faces the media later.

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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