Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Chamberlain and Gibbs available but is Wenger set to make wholesale changes?

Morning Gooners.

There is finally some good news. The nice people at the Football Association have identified that Andre Marriner made a huge mistake on Saturday by sending off Kieran Gibbs for a handball that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain committed.

Although they don't name the referee in their statement, it is clear he and his colleagues cannot tell the difference between two black men, perhaps you can... More importantly, they've been given another game this weekend coming with absolutely no explanation given as to how the decision to send off Gibbs was made. It's something which we'll never to get to the bottom of.

So it's great that we have both players available for tonight's match. What's not so great is that Laurent Koscielny is unavailable with the calf injury which forced him off at half time at Stamford Bridge. Hector Bellerin comes into the squad.

So we have the same squad, minus Koscielny, to make a response to our trashing and capitulation at Chelsea.  I guess what's good is that we have a game so soon. It's important we get back to winning ways because there are still plenty of games around us for the team above us and below us to extend the lead and catch us up.

Arsene Wenger is putting the weekend defeat down as an accident. He wants his team to get straight back on the pitch and put it right.

Wenger told Arsenal Player:
"An accident has happened, that doesn't mean that you're not a good driver. 
"It just means that we have played about 40 games this season and it's not what happened on Saturday that reflects the quality of this team. We have 62 points that we earned hard with quality games and that's what we want to focus on, to get back to that quality. We go back to basics. 
"Of course you need to analyse as well the fact that we were down to 10 men [at Chelsea] and the offensive quality of Chelsea on the counter-attack is very good. 
"You have to put that into perspective, we just came out of two convincing results at Bayern Munich and at Tottenham with a very solid defensive performance so you have to think that [Chelsea] was an accident. 
"How do you deal with the accident? You repair them, you repair the damage and you go for the next one. The response has always been very strong and I'm convinced it will be again on Tuesday."
I'm not convinced by the manager's response. That's three serious accidents we've had against our direct rivals and nothing appears to have been learnt from the first two. Do we prepare well enough? Per Mertesacker quipped after Saturday's match that we don't like early kick-offs on a Saturday away from home. There is something in that. We've lost at Manchester City, Liverpool and now Chelsea all at the same time.

So is something in our pre-match preparations not right? Other top teams seem to do better than us. There was a really interesting programme on this exact subject on Sky Sport's Footballers Football Show last month. Are we getting it as right as we should be? It appears not.

Lets hope changes are going to be made to out build up to 12:45 kick-offs  in the future.

As for tonight, does the manager shuffle his squad around? It appears he has few options to do so. The reports yesterday suggested that Wojciech Szczesny would be one of the players axed over their performance. Olivier Giroud hasn't been firing on all cylinders either. There is also a call for pace to be put back into the team, so should Gnabry start? Flamini over Arteta or should Kallstrom be handed his debut?

I've no idea what kind of team we're likely to see tonight. But I don't think big rotation is needed. We need the players who failed on Saturday to put on a performance and build some confidence back, ahead of the Manchester City game at the weekend.

It's time for the talking to stop and for the player to give us a response.


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