Now the full extent of our latest glut of injuries is clear (Cesc out for at least six weeks, Gallas at least three and Arshavin possibly back for the Man Shitty game, on April 24) our beleaguered team entertain Wolves at the Grove today.
Were I a hopeless romantic, I would interpret the fact that the last time the Wanderers made their only previous foray into the Premier League we were Champions, as a portent of our crowning as Champions this season. However, not only have recent setbacks on the injury front and crucially, two dropped points at Ginger McLeish’s ploughed field, soured my view of our chances, but as an engineer by education, I’m fairly unromantic (as many ex-girlfriends will confirm).
Wolves, as original founders of the football league, were formed nine years before us and therefore their glory days are well behind them; a League Cup win in 1980 being their last silverware. Having been promoted this season as Championship winners, it would seem they are safe from joining Pompey, and hopefully Hull, in the Championship next year, lying as they do in fourteenth place, five points above the drop zone. Their form has been indifferent, three losses, two draws and two wins in the last seven games points to a home win for us however one of those two wins was away at West Ham.
The Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy, will no doubt be quietly confident of catching us on an off day, with an “after the Lord Mayor’s show” kind of lethargy he will hope to exploit.
The press will portray McCarthy as an honest, blunt-speaking type – a typical product of a Barnsley upbringing; his flat, Yorkshire tones would not go amiss on an episode of Emmerdale (farm). I enjoyed him taking down the Mank mad dog Roy Keane a peg or two after he had a pre-pubescent style hissy-fit during Irelands 2002 world Cup campaign.
The danger man will obviously be Kevin Doyle, their top scorer with seven for the season, their next highest scorer being defender Jody “Fanny” Craddock who has chipped in with five strikes– clearly a player to watch out for when the referee awards a free kick against us near the penalty area for the first foul we commit tomorrow.
As for us, we know in all likelihood we won’t see Cesc till the World Cup at the earliest, however I harbour a secret hope he’ll be back for the last league game and the Champions League final – so maybe I am a tiny bit romantic! Wenger has bluntly denied rumours circulated by the mischief-making press that Cesc was played with a leg already broken by one of McLeish’s muggers last Saturday.
Nasri would be the shoe in to take Cesc’s place but the centre back partner for the Verminator is a conundrum I am glad I don’t have to solve. The question is Campbell or Song? Assuming Sol is only good for one game a week, and then if he plays today he is out for Tuesday’s return leg at the Camp Nou.
The problem is, do we risk a less mobile Sol on Tuesday or save him for League games only? If we play Song at centre back on Tuesday, we’ll lose his midfield drive against the Catalans and that could be crucial as only a win (or an unlikely a score draw of 3-3, or above) will suffice. Being radical, one could argue for Song to be at centre back today as Wolves do not have the midfield brilliance of Iniesta, Xavi and Keita, add to that the fact that we don’t play next Saturday then conceivably Sol could play on Tuesday and be able to return for the NLD (where the assembled masses of cro-magnon Spuds will give him a sporting welcome back to the Lane, of that I’m sure), on the fourteenth of April. The caveat there would be that we would then have the away game at Wigan on the Sunday after the NLD and that would surely test Sol’s fitness.
Assuming the minor strains attributed to Clichy and Denilson clear up, I would guess Wenger will select the following 4-3-3:
My own selection would be with an eye to Tuesday:
One thing’s for sure, if we see a draw at Old Toilet before we kick off, then it’s game on for our title chances and a much jollier pre match Peroni (or four) at the Arsenal Tavern.
So to all of you going today, crank up the volume to 11 for our Wednesday night heroes – “Come on you rip roaring Gunners!”
By our guest writer charybdis1966