Saturday, 21 April 2012

Two decisions for Wenger -RVP's contact -The secret to beating Chelsea

Morning Gooners.

It's game day and time to put right what happened at the Grove on Monday night. We cannot expect this lunchtime's game to be easy. Chelsea will be on a high following their victory against Barcelona and Roberto di Matteo will change his side to face us.

We already know Didier Drogba is out - which is a massive boost. We know how he likes to terrorise our defence and of course he has a thing about scoring against us. Today he can't do that and instead we'll have to contend with Fernando Torres.

In defence we'll welcome back Laurent Koscielny and I don't think we should underestimate the loss he's been in the team during his two game suspension. Having him playing alongside Thomas Vermaelen will give us more stability in the centre and I would imagine that Kieran Gibbs will come back in at left back. Along with Wojciech Szczesny in goal and Bacary Sagna at right back, it will mean our first choice defence at this point of the season is once again playing together, which will mean we've got a solid base on which to build our game.

Mikel Arteta's absence in midfield will be felt again today. There are options for the manager: Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby or Alex Oxlade Chamberlain.

But the Spaniard will no doubt be replaced by Ramsey who without a question of a doubt has a point to prove. He's said himself he was disappointed by his and the team's performance on Monday night and wants to move on and give his all against Chelsea. With Ramsey getting the ire of a section of our support within the ground, I think it's important to point out a number of things.

This is his first complete season as a professional footballer. Even at Cardiff he only broke into the team in the second half of the season prior to his summer move to us. Then he was played into the team, gaining the majority of his appearances in the second half of the 2008-09 season. The following season he was establishing himself as a first team player before he was Shawcrossed and then spent last season regaining his fitness.

So far his term he's made 32 starts and come off the bench eight times - the most appearances in one season since he's been a professional. And during this time he's been asked to play a variety of positions - starting the season playing behind Robin van Persie, being switched to the left and now playing in the deep lying midfield role. Each position has its own set of responsibilities and he while he might be captain of Wales, he's still learning the game.

He might not have been at his best in the past few weeks, but he's a player who never hides. He always wants the ball and tries to be creative. So this lunchtime let's get off his back and support him.

Alex Song will have a more important role to play today and because he'll be playing alongside a more attack minded Ramsey, will have to curb his forward-going instinct to sit in front of the back four.

The manager has a decision to make about who plays on the left of the attacking three. Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky pick themselves but does the manager opt for Gervinho or Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. I think he'll go with experience over youth and start the Ivory Coast international. That will leave us with the option of introducing the Ox when Chelsea's legs tire in the second half.

Up front it will be our one and only in form striker Robin van Persie.

The captain said:
"We have to win, it’s as simple as that, and I can promise you that we will go for it. We’ve proved that we can perform in the big games against top teams, and it’s up to us to show it again. 
"Everybody is looking forward to it, and to bouncing back from the Wigan result because we need to put that right. We have everything that it takes to put in another very good performance."
Robin hasn't scored in open play for six games but I'm sure he'll put that right this afternoon. There is lots of talk around today about his contact - Arsene Wenger has stated that he wants it resolved before the start of the European Championships - but that's a sideshow today. We can't do much about his contact until the end of the season so let's worry about it then.

I expect the team to be:
Szczesny - Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs - Song, Ramsey - Walcott, Rosicky, Gervinho - van Persie.

The Grove has been rocking for every big game I've been to this season (and for the most part every game has had a good positive atmosphere). Let's make sure that Chelsea know we're behind our team. Let's give our boys 100% backing and prove to them that the Grove is no library. This game is vital. Win it and we've got a great chance at finishing third. Be loud and proud Gooners and let's beat them together.

Until tomorrow.

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