Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Wilshere to play tonight -Wenger wants TWO signings -French teenage sensation linked

Morning Gooners.

In my mind, today's game is very much make or break for our season. Maybe that's a little over dramatic, but I feel we desperately need a response. So far 2013 hasn't really started for us. Two draws and a defeat have left many - myself included - wondering when our first win will come.

Tonight's game with Swansea is not going to be easy. The manager confirmed that he would make just one enforced change to his squad by bringing Andrey Arshavin back in from the cold in place of the suspended Laurent Koscielny.

The manager has said he has no plans to rest Jack Wilshere just yet. And Tomas Rosicky won't be involved because of a calf injury. The injured Czech joins Mikel Arteta - who's own injury isn't as bad as first feared - in the London Colney treatment centre, along with goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

That doesn't leave very much room for rotation. Given that ten of the players have played 80 minutes of football against 11 men on Sunday, quite how the manager plans to mix up his squad for tonight's fixture is debatable. Given the fixture at Stamford Bridge is on Sunday, I would have expected a few changes. But I think it's clear the manager will field the strongest team possible.

For me that would be: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Wilshere, Diaby, Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud.

There could be a couple of changes: Aaron Ramsey might get a start in place of Abou Diaby and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be played in place of Lukas Podolski, but I've got the feeling the manager wants the team to really go for it from the off.

And there is no denying we need to start well. The longer the match goes on without us being in the lead, the harder it will be for us to win the game. Given the effort the players put in - without any reward on Sunday - we need to be out of the blocks well and trying to score an early goal.

I hope there is a good atmosphere at the game tonight. I'm really up for this one. I really want it to be loud and intimidating as I know we can be when we're up for big games. And tonight is a big game. It's our only realistic chance of a trophy this season and we've got to get behind the team whoever plays.

The manager has been speaking about transfers to the official website but also to Al Jazeera television.

In his comments to he said:

"We are working very hard. First of all we want to sort out the injuries we have, and we are trying very hard to close the deal with Walcott. Once we have done that, we will certainly do something else. At the moment I cannot tell you more."
Let's start with the first bit. Injuries we have... the squad has three players with short term injures. Hardly an injury crisis. And as regards to Theo's deal, we've been working on that for months. What's to say that contract still isn't signed by the end of the month. But then he say's he'll be doing something in the transfer window!

He continues:
"It has become more difficult [to buy players in January] for one simple reason: we have a good squad. I know we swim against the stream a bit because people don’t believe that. I say we have a very good squad."
Well Arsene, sorry but this "good squad" could only draw with Southampton at the start of the month and got pegged back by a good Swansea team we should still be beating. And then last weekend we got beaten by Manchester City who weren't the least bit threatened by our attack.

I don't deny we have a good first eleven who on their day could beat anyone in the league. But we haven't seen many of those results this season. We've lost two of our games against the Manchester clubs so far.

He concludes:
"But we have some improvements to make and we know exactly where. In January it is difficult to find the players that are really better and can give something special to the squad. The number is right, we have a good balance and we are working very hard to find what we want."
I don't deny the January window is harder to do deals. But that's not to say all the behind the scenes work couldn't be done in December. You don't have to identify the players who will improve your squad just from January 1st and then contact their club. You can do all that before the window has opened. What you have to wait to do in January is the paperwork.

At the moment our squad is too thin. We don't have the quality in replacement players we can bring in for injuries or players we want to give a rest to. I am really hopeful the manager can find the players that he think can improve our squad. It really shouldn't be that hard.

Saying all that, I know why the manager has said all he's said. You've got to think of the context he's making these statements in. To the official club website prior to a game he knows his team must win. He doesn't want his players thinking they're going to be replaced by a new signing because he doesn't think they're good enough. He has to speak positively about his squad. After all, they are his players who he's developed and signed.

Therefore it's interesting to read what he said in his interview with Al Jazeera television.

He said:

"My plan is first to keep all the players we have and then add two new players to the squad if possible. 
"We had restricted funds because we had to pay the stadium. Now we are in a stronger position financially again and we can spend. It is important that the club goes in the right direction. 
"We have a young team with fantastic qualities. I have to get the qualities transformed into positive results."
Note how open he's being with an international broadcaster, one who doesn't have a domestic audience here in the UK. And it's interesting he's obviously got two players in mind who he'd like to bring to the club. Who might they be?

Could one be West Ham's 25-year-old midfielder Mohamed Diame? If it is true he's got a £3.5m release clause, we should certainly consider him. Big Sam doesn't want to lose him though...

Could the other be Nantes' 17-year-old winger George-Kevin Nkoudou who has a reported £1m buy-out clause? That has the markings of an Arsene Wenger transfer. The Daily Mirror link us with a move for the France under-17 player.

And finally, the Daily Star report chairman Peter Hill-Wood will make a decision on his continued involvement with the club following his heart attack next month.

He said yesterday:
"I’ve had a rough time but I am getting stronger every day and am over the worst."
The 76-year-old is recovering at his home in Kent. I wish him a speedy recovery.

That's it for today. See those of you heading to the game at the Grove later. Remember it's a 7:30pm kick off. I'll be back here tomorrow with more.

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