Saturday, 13 April 2013

Five changes on the cards? -Has Wenger fallen out with Podolski?

Morning Gooners.

Leaving the Hawthorns last weekend, it seemed everyone around me was buzzing after we recorded our third league win on the bounce with such a gritty performance. We'd just witnessed a massive win given the circumstances and it put us in a top four position - for 24 hours at least - for the first time in four months.

This afternoon's match is just as vital. We will play three times before Spurs play again and we've got to take advantage of that by putting nine points on the board to increase the pressure on them but also Chelsea. To my mind, this isn't a two horse north London race for a fourth place finish as much as the media would make us believe. Chelsea are in it as well.

And it's important we don't take our focus away from finishing as high in the table as possible. The manager is resolute in his determindation that we need to win our games and only look at ourselves. There can be no distractions about what our rivals are doing.

Wenger said:
"It's a massive week for us because they don't play we have a chance to build an advantage. 
"But since four or five weeks ago we know we have to win our games whether they play or not. 
"We have to focus on our games. It does not matter whether Tottenham play or not. We have to win our game."
I expect the manager to make a few changes to the starting line up this afternoon, with 1/10th of an eye on the Everton game on Tuesday. In goal, Lukasz Fabianski keeps his place. I'd expect in defence Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs to both start alongside Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscienly, giving Bacary Sagna and Nacho Monreal a breather.

In midfield I'd not break up the Mikel Arteta/Aaron Ramsey axis. So ahead of them I'd play Theo Walcott on the right, Jack Wilshere through the middle and Santi Cazorla on the left, with Olivier Giroud through the middle.

I know the old saying goes don't change a winning team, but I believe the manager can make these five changes - two of which are enforced on him (Mertesacker's suspension and Rosicky's hamstring injury) and this team can still win the match this afternoon.

We'll also have a rested Gervinho, Sanga and Monreal for the Everton game on Tuesday.

Away from today's game, Lukas Podolski has spoken to the matchday programme about his season and says he's fit and raring to go, given a chance.

The German said:
"I did well earlier in the season, then had an injury which put me out for a few weeks, but now I’m back and hope to play a big part in the final run of matches.  
"But it is the coach’s decision, of course."
A source close to Podolski is quoted in The Sun saying the German fears being sold in the summer and thinks that Arsene Wenger has a problem with him. It's puzzling that having made such a bright start to his Arsenal career with eight goals and nine assists in the league, the former Cologne man hasn't started a game since the home leg against Bayern Munich in February.

I very much doubt Wenger will sell him in the summer. But I do wonder whether Podolski's desire to play through the middle - either as our lone central striker or just off the striker - is the real problem. Perhaps Wenger has now boxed him as a back up player for Giroud and is not considering him for a place on the left hand side of our attacking three.

Elsewhere, the Daily Mail are linking Bayern Munich with a move for Laurent Koscielny. The Frenchman has four years remaining on his deal come the summer and seems to be very happy in London. It would take a huge fee for Arsene Wenger to consider selling his compatriot, so I don't see Lolo leaving this summer.

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

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