Friday, 20 April 2012

Lucky charm Kroenke returns -Diaby in the squad -Defender and goalkeeper scouted

Morning Gooners.

Huge game tomorrow and the manager has delivered the team news ahead of the clash at the Grove with Chelsea. It's basically how we thought it would be. Mikel Arteta is out for the remainder of the season, Abou Diaby comes back into the squad after 45 minutes against Oman and it's too early for the return of Francis Coquelin following his two month spell in the medical centre.

Another positive is the return of Laurent Koscielny from suspension. However we will be without Yossi Benayoun who is unable to play against his parent club.

That leaves two places on the team sheet - most likely to be filled by Aaron Ramsey and Gervinho. Arsene Wenger can field the majority of the team which beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge back in October. Only Arteta and Per Mertesacker are unavailable. Right back that day Johan Djourou is set to switch out of the team for Bacary Sanga who was out injured when we made the trip to south west London.

Looking back at the team that day and the team we're likely  to line up with tomorrow, the vast core of players are the same. It's because we've consistently been able to field the same set of players, more or less, which has meant we've come back from being seventh in the table that day (Chelsea were third) to being in a position where guaranteed Champions League football is still in our own hands.

How many of our remaining four fixtures we'll have to win is unknown. It all depends on what our rivals do as well. However returning immediately to winning ways has to be our target for tomorrow.

The manager said:

"I don't know [how many more wins we need], we just want to win the next one. I believe our target is just that. 
"We have to think that we have been on a great run, we have a fantastic opportunity but we also just need to focus on the next game and win it. 
"Only the third place guarantees you to be in the Champions League anyway."

What we can't do is blow up now after coming back from being in 17th in the league following the defeat at Old Trafford to where we are today. We tease Spurs they are chocking cockerels, but if we don't finish the season in third place you will have to questions what went wrong.

At the moment we have had two defeats to "lesser" teams we should be beating nine out of ten times. Gervinho has said that all the players are concentrating on is finishing in third spot. We need to maintain our focus for that position, have a strong performance against Chelsea and then push on for the final three games.

Momentum is key. Newcastle and Chelsea have it. We've had two blips in ten games but should get back on track with a win and Spurs have completely lost it and are going backwards. I'm still in two minds about the midweek Champions League result which our visitors achieved over Barcelona. Is it a good thing they won and does that work in our favour or would a defeat have proved to be positive for us?

Owner Stan Kroenke is back in London this week and the last time he watched us play Chelsea we beat them 5-3. Is his presence at the Grove this weekend (if he decides to stay and take in the game first hand) a good omen for us?

Elsewhere Andrey Arshavin talks about Arsene Wenger losing faith in him being one of the factors for his return to Russia to play football for Zenit St Petersburg. Personally I don't believe that is the case or otherwise the manager would have sold him. I just don't think Arshavin has it in his legs to play 90 minutes of competitive football in the world's toughest league and that's why he only started eight league games for us this season.

There is some transfer tittle tattle as well. The Daily Mirror report we're running the rule over Montpellier central defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa who they say is out of contract at the end of next season. The 22-year-old was born in Central African Republic, but has represented France at under-21 level. It's reported he's available for around £7m - possibly a cheap replacement for Sebastien Squillaci if/when he's moved on in the summer.

The Mirror also link us with Birmingham's teenage goalkeeper Jack Butland who we've been scouting for a while but yet to put a bid in for. With changes likely to happen in the goalkeeping department this summer - with the departure of Manuel Almunia and possibly Lukasz Fabianksi, we'll be in the market for a new shot stopper. Whether Butland is our man or not remains to be seen.

The manager will speak to the media later and it will be interesting to see what his mood is like after Monday's unexpected defeat. We'll also get the latest on who will be in his starting line up no doubt.

Until tomorrow.

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