The weekend has finally arrived, and bought with it another footballing escapade, and it’s not more than what I can hope for after what has been a hectic week.
Tomorrow, we travel to Stoke, which has been one of our least favorite places to go to in the Premier League. It is hostile, physical, and well, physical. Stoke’s direct approach at football has rattled us in the past quite a few times, and I wouldn’t expect anything different from them tomorrow.
Tony Pulis will be there, baseball cap on head, urging his players on to have a real go at Arsenal. Last season’s pathetic Wenger imitations from the Stoke supporters will probably repeat itself tomorrow, and it will take more than free flowing football on the pitch to get 3 points, and our season running. More on that a bit later.
The Nuri Sahin transfer saga is finally completed, with the Turkish midfielder very close to completing his move to Liverpool, after Arsenal withdrew interest from the Real Madrid man. The entire saga can be read here. So, that’s that.
Arsene Wenger reiterated that he is still looking at a couple of options to bolster the squad, and while the murmurs have already begun about M’Vila, let’s not go overboard with this. Transfers take a lot of time to happen. There’s a whole lot more of paper work, claused, terms, and signatures to get over with. If we had to sign M’Vila, I think we would have done it long back, and not a week before the window slams shut. However, anything is possible, so watch this space.
Apart from bolstering the squad, the manager will also be keen in getting Walcott to sign the new contract offer that is tabled. Negotiations are still on, and it will be interesting to watch in the coming days how this goes. Of course Arsenal will lose a lot of cash, should Walcott stay and not extend his contract, which means he will leave on a free next summer.
In some other news, Arsenal legend Fredrik Ljungberg has called it a day on his footballing career. The Super Swede spent 9 years in North London and was one of my favorite players at the club, when I started supporting them.
He provided a wealth of memories, the first of which being lobbing Peter Schmeichel to score in a 3-0 win over Manchester United. Ah, heady days. He and Pires were brilliant in the 2001-2002 double season of course, with Ljungberg capping off the season, with that amazing goal against Chelsea in the 2002 FA Cup final, and days later, helping set up a tapin for Wiltord at Old Trafford, to win the league.
More memorable moments came in the 2003-2004 season when he was a vital part of the team that went on to win the league without losing a simple match. Of course, the hair had gone, by then, but Ljungberg was a darling of the terraces and chants of “We love you Freddie, because you’ve got red hair” became “We love you Freddie, because you’ve got no hair”. He went on to win the FA Cup the following season, making that miraculous off the line clearance from a van Nistelrooy shot, against ManU of course.
However, injuries were taking his toll, yet he played a vital role as Arsenal went to the Champions League final. Despite his whole hearted performance, with Arsenal down to 10 men, it was his fellow countryman Henrik Larsson who won the game for Barcelona in the dying minutes. Injuries restricted his game time to only 18 games, the following season, and he moved to West Ham in 2007. Since then, he has appeared for Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire, Celtic and Shimizu S-Pulse.
His footballing career was often rivalled by his modelling career, as he represented brands such as underwear giants Calvin Klein, Nike LÓreal etc. He was voted as the 11th best Arsenal player of all time, in the Gunner’s Greatest Players List.
So, here’s wishing all the best to a real legend, who was fuckin’ excellent for us.
Team news then. Laurent Koscielny is definitely ruled out of this one, and there were minor doubts about the inclusion of Wojciech Szczesny, but he should be fit enough to start. Apart from that, there is a little update on the fitness of Jack Wilshere. Wenger said he expects the England midfielder to be back by October, but says he wouldn’t be willing to risk it, as he doesn’t want the all-action midfielder to suffer from knockdown effects.
Former Arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant is a doubt to start for Stoke. They will also be without midfielder Dean Whitehead, who carries a suspension.
Here is how I think the two teams will line up.
I personally do not expect the game to light up and be an absolute cracker jacker, and given the two midfields are expected to line up, it could really turn to an intense battle. I expect Arteta to continue his role as a deep lying playmaker, and it suits him really well, while also allowing Diaby to exploit spaces. This will mean Cazorla will be our main focal point of attacks tomorrow.
For a highly technical player from Spain, this could be an absolute culture shock for the former Malaga and Villarreal man. He would be up against the physicality of Wilson Palacios and Glenn Whelan. Up front, Stoke can ruffle a few feathers though. Michael Kightly, signed from Wolves, and Mathew Etherington will be looking to pour in crosses, from both flanks, to Peter Crouch of course. Per Mertesacker will have it harder than he thinks.
Up front for Arsenal, I would prefer to see Giroud start, alongside Podolski and Gervinho, but I think we could go in with the same frontline as the one we saw last week. Walcott was a bit out of sorts, and he won’t have it any easier tomorrow either. Gervinho was lovely last week, but with little end product. Again, if any of the above 3 were to be dropped, I think it will be Walcott, with Gervinho playing on the right, and Giroud in the centre. This will give us a bit more versatility. Hinges completely on team selection.
While a win would really get us all buzzing, we should keep in mind that this is just the second game for a very new look team, and whatever the result, conclusions on the team or individuals cannot be drawn on the basis of their performances tomorrow alone.
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!