Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Arteta's fitness woe -Giroud's confidence shot -Wenger's five decisions -Training ground visitor

Morning Gooners.

The manager hosted his pre-match press conference ahead of tonight's game alongside Carl Jenkinson at the training ground yesterday.

I thought the 20-year-old right-back spoke well and answered all the questions put to him openly and honestly. Even when he was asked about his international future.

The pre-match injury news isn't great. Some was as expected - Abou Diaby out for three weeks with a thigh strain - however Mikel Arteta's ankle injury was not.

The manager says the French national team are to blame for Diaby's injury because they played him in a game against Finland last month. I'm not sure that's entirely fair. Wasn't it Wenger who was highlighting only last month when Diaby was called up what an important player he is for Les Bleus?

Diaby has had a full pre-season and had only played three games for Arsenal when he was called up. It's not as though Wenger can claim the player was exhausted. What I do believe to be the issue is that Diaby isn't given a rigorous one on one warm up prior to the game. If he was we'd be less likely to see him pull a muscle.

The potential absence of Diaby's midfield partner Mikel Arteta would be a major blow. We saw last season we were too reliant on him. The Spaniard is to have a fitness test this morning and then the manager will weigh up his options. Does he play the midfielder with the chance he could be out for a length of time should he aggravate the injury or wrap him in cotton wool for Saturday's league game with West Ham?

Wenger may feel he can nurse Arteta through the next two games before the international break where the midfielder will get a chance to properly recuperate because he won't be called up by Spain. It's a fine balance but I'd imagine the manager will give him every chance to prove his fitness. To give Arteta to the morning of the game shows the importance Wenger believes he has on the team.

My guess is that Wenger will play him as long as he's satisfied he'll be available for Saturday as well.

There are four other decisions the manager has got when it comes to his team selection. Does he restore Per Mertesacker to the side and at who's expense. Who will take Abou Diaby's place in the starting line up? Will Gervinho continue to lead the attack? And who gets to start on the right hand side...

The manager has stated that Giroud's confidence has taken a battering because of the three good chances he's missed against Sunderland, Liverpool and last weekend against Chelsea.

Wenger said:

"Olivier is upset. I told him not to worry but a striker who does not score, does not really listen to you.  
"They run it through their minds over and over again.  
"He had a chance against Liverpool, a chance against Sunderland and a chance against Chelsea.  
"Once the first goes in, maybe the rest will follow."

From the noises I'm hearing Giroud is likely to be restored to the starting line up tonight. We can see that he's getting in the right places and making the right runs, it's his finishing which is costing him. Putting a few chances away can only help him and we should be winning our home games if we are to progress in the competition.

Steve Bould will take charge of team affairs as the manager sits out the second of his three game touchline ban. The former central defender's first game in charge of the first team was a success and Wenger has said that his players do not have an excuse just because he's not on the bench.

The Frenchman said:
"Ideally I would like to be on the bench, but we speak about everything before the game [in terms of] what can happen. 
"I don't think it is a massive handicap, it would not be an excuse for a bad performance."
The big decisions are made before the game in selecting the team. And then the substitutions are usually decided before the game, unless there is an injury to a player, which would force an unplanned change.

I'm sure there will be a good atmosphere inside the ground tonight. We've got to move on from Saturday. Tonight is a huge game and a win will go some way to ensuring that we qualify for the next phases of the competition.

There is lots of stories in the newspapers about the American sprinter Michael Johnson being at the training ground yesterday. The manager has said there is not too much in it but it shows that Arsenal are looking outside the box and to other sports to see if there are ways in which players can improve their performances which they've not already thought of.

Sports science is a huge industry and football in general is a closed industry. Not many teams play as close attention to the developments as other sports. Arsenal are one of the clubs leading the way in football, but they have a long way to go to match the likes of rugby and cricket.

That's it for today. See you at the Grove later and I'll be back with more tomorrow.

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