With our regular pre-match pundit being asked (bizarrely) to write an essay by his university (something that never happened when I was a student) we turn this week to Billy “The Dog” McGraw, landlord of the Toppled Bollard, St Thomas’ Rd, for a run down on the match against the London Street Atlas, or A to Z as they are known.
The big news of course is that the official programme has an article by me in it, and really there isn’t much else to say, but since you are here and reading, here is the rest…
In goal: Aluminum. Wenger never changes keepers match on match – when he dropped Lehmann for a while it was for a while, so Aluminum is back in the sticks.
Back four: Gael Clichy has a back strain and is out for a month, so Gael Clichy II plays (K Gibbs) alongside Vermaelen, Gallas, and Sagna.
Midfield three: Now here we have a choice of
- Rosicky (Wenger has said he will be involved but won’t start)
- Vela if recovered (no clear news)
So from that I would go for Fabregas, Song, Nasri, with Nasri coming off for Rosicky, and possibly Fabregas coming off for Ramsey. Unless Nasri is a forward (see below).
Or maybe Fabregas, Song, Merida. So now we move on to the forwards
- Van Basten-Bergkamp also known as Van Persie
- Eduardo (probably played more than expected on saturday)
- Eboue (or in midfield)
- Nasri (or in midfield)
- Merida (or in midfield)
- Rosicky (as noted above, won’t start)
If you want something remarkable, consider
Arshavin, Van Persie, Merida or perhaps
Arshavin, Van Persie, Nasri
Much depends on how Eduardo reacted to Saturday. He didn’t look 1000%, but maybe he just needs some time on the pitch, and if so this could be the game to do it, which would give us
- Fabregas, Song, Merida (with Rosicky on as a sub for Merida)
- Eduardo, Van Persie, Nasri (with Arshavin coming on as a sub for Nasri)
Now my point in all this is that this is our injury list
- Goal: Fabianski
- Back four: Djourou and Clichy
- Midfield: Walcott, Denilson, Traore, Wilshere
- Forward: Bendtner, Vela?
That is eight or nine significant players out. And still we can shuffle around with the team for the AZ game.
So putting my mouth where my money used to be before the bank stole it, I am going for…
- Sagna, Vermaelen, Gallas, Gibbs
- Fabregas, Song, Merida (sub Ramsey)
- Eduardo (sub Arshavin or vice versa), Van Basten, Nasri (sub Rosicky)
Of course if we struggle for goals, or if we are four nil up then other changes will be made.
I’ve left out Diaby simply because he has played in most matches, and there is a replacement for him. I’d do the same for Song if Denilson was fit. And if Song gets injured at the moment I think Diaby is going to have to play in that position, so a break might not be a bad idea. Eboue is different – I still find him more impressive as a right back, and am always happy to see him there.
Our tactics will be much the same as before. We attack, then we attack, we attack, and then we attack a bit more.
So what, I hear you ask (as it were) have the A to Z been up to since we last saw them?
- They lost at home 2-4 to Ajax in the League.
- Then they beat Spakenburg 5-2 in the Cup
- And then they beat Groningen away 0-1 in the League.
The largest crowd they have played against all season is 22,000 away to Heerenveen.
After 12 games they lie seventh, with 18 points, scored 21 let in 15. They are 14 points behind FC Twente which is run by the Umbrella Man.
In the Champs League they are third with two draws and one defeat.
Perhaps the best thing about AZ is that on their web site they have a section called “Old Cheese” (Oude kaas) (I know, I know, I don’t speak the language, but that is how it appeared to me).
AZ will be without their top scorer Mounir El Hamdaoui– other than that I am going to declare total ignorance. Sorry. If you know, please write in.
A year ago we played at home to Fenerbahce, and the team was
- Toure, Djourou, Silvestre, Clichy
- Ramsey, Fabregas, Denilson, Nasri
- Van Persie, Bendtner
Have we improved? Yes in that the back four looks much more solid, and the whole shape of the team is better. We had 63% of possession and drew 0-0. I don’t see a 0-0 this time.
I have to say it was great having Billy the Dog to give guidance and advice on the team selection (not to mention translation of the AZ web site) in this way. I did make one or two minor adjustments to his predictions, as when he had Alan Skirton playing on the wing, and Pat Rice at full back, with Bob Dylan slotting in, in midfield, but by and large I took him at his word.
“I had that Herbert Chapman in the saloon bar yesterday,” Billy told me over a gallon of sweet sherry, “and he gave me the low-down, so I think you’ll find this is dead right.”
What part did Winston Churchill have to play in the history of Woolwich Arsenal in 1910? All is revealed in MAKING THE ARSENAL. Available now. It’s awfully good. And don’t forget to buy the programme.
And do you know I published this page, and forgot to give my all-important and much-in-demand early announcement of the result. Can you ever forgive me?
Probably not, but anyway, we win 6-1. Arsene Wenger throws a beachball onto the pitch in the 9th minute. It hits the ref and floors him. Cesc clears the ball down the middle and this also hits the ref who is still on the floor, goes up into the sky where it hits a pigeon and bounces back into the goal.
Nasri then scores three before a pass back from Gallas to Aluminum leads to the keeper dribbling up the field, doing a one-two with the pigeon, and scoring. Bob Dylan then appears as a sub and scores the final goal, exactly as Billy the Dog described. The AZ goal comes in the 93rd minute as 127 beach balls are thrown onto the pitch by the away support.
Now you know.
(c) Tony Attwood / Billy “The Dog” McGraw, 2009.
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