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Victory Through Harmony
After a tight win over Huddlesfield, it’s a single days rest and then we’re back to it versus Everton. There was plenty of criticism of Wenger’s decision to play Nasri once it came out that his injury would likely cost him his place against Barcelona. Personally I think it’s just one of those things. Wenger confirmed he wouldn’t have played had Rosicky been fit and given how tight the match was we couldn’t really have afforded make many more changes.
We were already playing Diaby who was short of match fitness after his recent injury, so an unfit Rosicky in the middle would’ve been a disaster in the making. The timetabling of Sunday’s game and then Everton on Tuesday made the rotation a necessity and it was just bad luck that Nasri played and ended up injured.
For the Everton game we’re without Nasri, while Squillaci is suspended. Sagna should be back and fit to start after his concussion but Fabianski remains out with a shoulder problem. Long term injury victim Vermaelen is of course out of this tie, though should be on the road to recovery now.
Everton on the other hand will likely be without their key man Cahill, who was participating in the Asian Cup until recently. Lengthy flights from the Middle East will likely rule him out this tie, though he is their only key absentee. Saha may or may not be a doubt, but good old University internet is convinced the Everton official website is actually a casino site so forbids me to enter it, so I can’t confirm that one way or another.
Sagna Djourou Koscielny Clichy
Walcott Van Persie Rosicky/Bendtner
Sczcnesy returns in goal, with Sagna and Clichy coming in for Gibbs and Eboue at fullback. Djourou replaces the suspended Squillaci leaving Koscielny as the only constant of the back five. Koscielny has played an incredible number of games recently but through lack of other options we haven’t been able to rotate him. Squillaci’s ban comes at a bad time but is fortunately only a single match. Song and Wilshere return in front of the back four, with match winner Fabregas taking up his usually position in midfield.
After an FA Cup breather Walcott and Van Persie return to the starting eleven, leaving the only question mark around the left side. Both Arshavin and Bendtner played the full ninety minutes on Sunday, which surely limits them to just the bench. I doubt Arshavin’s fitness could cope with the lack of rest, and playing them would just be asking for a muscle injury due to fatigue. That said Bendtner has experience of playing out wide – albeit on the right – but could well thrive cutting inside onto his right foot to shoot. It might rob us of a bit of width, but his link-up play is good. Vela’s out on loan otherwise I would have started him here, which leaves Rosicky.
Rosicky is generally treated with caution given his injury record over the last couple of seasons, and having played more than half of Sunday’s game Wenger might not want to risk him either. While he played on the left early on in his Arsenal career, that was a left midfield position as opposed to an inside forward set-up on that flank. Inside forward demands a lot of penetration from the player, the ability to beat a man, score and play the killer passes.
While Rosicky can do some of that, he can’t do it all and it may be too much to ask given he may not be 100% match fit after his illness. It is certainly a tough call for Wenger to make.
What can we expect from Everton? Well, they played a full strength team against Chelsea in the FA Cup on Saturday, so they’re going to be less rested than most of our starters. That will certainly have an have an impact, with the visitors likely to have plenty of running to do in this game.
The Chelsea match was a bit of strange one, with Rodwell playing an unfamiliar role off Saha in the absence of Cahill. Left back Baines has been the subject of many recent rumours off the back of an impressive season and will need to be watched when he goes forward. I feel our default line-up will deal quite well with his threat; much of the plaudits have come based off of his offensive play yet he simply won’t be able to join the Everton attach as often as he’d like, given Theo’s pace on his flank. I’d expect this to force him to play deeper than he normally would, much to our benefit.
Their right flank will be fairly solid, with Coleman and Neville both effective defensive players. We won’t get much joy down there, especially with what is likely to be a makeshift wide-man playing there. The focus will be on the middle and counter attacking on the right, using pace to get at their fairly slow centrebacks. Set pieces could be a concern. Even without Cahill they have an aerially-potent squad, with Heitinga, Fellaini and Distin.
Everton strike me as a team going in circles. They don’t seem to have much money at all, and David Moyes’ heart doesn’t seem to be in it any more. Last season they started poorly and then put together an excellent run of games to get back into the upper echelons of the table, but such a run doesn’t seem likely this season. Demoralised and with reinforcements looking unlikely, this Everton side like a shadow of the sides that battled for every point these last few seasons. I’m going to go for a relatively comfortable 2-0 to the Arsenal. We’ll miss Nasri’s cutting edge on the flank, but overall we’ll have more than enough to beat Everton comfortably. I don’t expect them to create too much bar from free kicks, we should control the midfield fairly easily.
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