Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Arsenal's "fantastic shape" -Huntelaar, Zaha and Reina on wishlist -Bould rant denied

Morning Gooners.

It appears that Arsene Wenger has thrown down the gauntlet to his misfiring players - you've got 28 days to sort it out. The Arsenal manager was in a determined mood when he spoke to the media ahead of the squad's trip to Greece. It's clear he won't allow the free-fall continue.

That's why he's rung the changes for tonight's game. Just four players who started Saturday's game against Swansea - Wojciech Szczesny, Carl Jenkinson, Thomas Vermaelen and Gervinho - make the 18-man squad. It includes seven young players not even in the first team squad: Martin Angha, Zak Ansah, Sead Hajrovic, Jernade Meade, Elton Monteiro, James Shea and Chuba Akpom.

Wenger said:

"Some players needed a rest because they were a bit on the fringe of injury, and some players are injured. 
"When I count the injured players I speak about Podolski and Walcott. We needed to rest Wilshere, 100 per cent, and Cazorla, Arteta and Mertesacker played many games recently. They have been rested. 
"It is [to avoid fatigue], and we have one luxury, that we can do it. But we have as well one necessity, to win the game tomorrow night. I tried to find the right balance between resting some players and as well having a competitive team tomorrow night."
It's clear the manager has set down a marker. Tonight's game is not as important than Saturday's against Wigan. He may talk of Montpellier doing a job against Schalke, but the Germans have been in fine form and it's unlikely they'll slip up now. He knows in all likelihood, Arsenal will come second in the group baring two miracles: a win in Greece for his side and three points for Montpellier.

I'm also expecting some of the youngsters to start. I really liked the look of Jernade Meade when I saw him play against Reading in the League Cup in October, so I hope he's given a game. Above all I want to see a spirited Arsenal performance. I just want us to start playing good football again and hopefully get a win.

You'll see a lot of headlines around today about the manager talking about the club being in "fantastic shape". Of course this is true. We have a fantastic stadium, training ground and a balance sheet which is the envy of our rivals. And while the current league position might not be fantastic, we know that the manager will turn things around. He's not finished outside the top four in the 16 full seasons he's had at the club.

Losing to Swansea wasn't the worst defeat in Arsenal's history. But it came on the back of less than fantastic footballing displays. We need to get back to winning ways and tonight would be a good place to start, even though I'm less than convinced we will.

The manager has categorically denied the reports Steve Bould let rip at the players following Saturday's defeat. While there would be no denying words were said after the loss, it's clear the manager is far from happy about the way things have been reported.

And as we're heading towards January, the Daily Mail reports we're lining up bids for Schalke striker Klass-Jan Huntelaar, a loan deal for Thierry Henry, Crystal Palace wonder kid Wilfried Zaha, Liverpool's Pepe Reina.

Elsewhere, The Sun say Arsene Wenger will move for Newcastle's Demba Ba.

While money might not change hands until January, that doesn't mean deals can be put in place now. And I would be very surprised if a number of transfers aren't in the pipeline.

That's it for today. Back with more tomorrow.

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