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Apologies if you got sidetracked by the earlier preview – the world is back on track, Thomas Vermaelen has opened his presents, and its the regular preview…
By Phil Gregory
After an interesting game for United, the opportunity to definitively go second looms for Arsenal. I say definitely, as there’s no messing around with having played a day earlier or somesuch, the Mancs have slipped up and hold a mere two point lead over us before our trip to Goodish. A win would put us second, and be a clear statement of intent from Wenger’s boys. It wouldn’t go amiss if it quietened down some mouthy United friends I have, neither.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of the preview of Everton, I just want to talk for a minute about the United game. With United 2-0 down, I foolishly made some cocky comment on my facebook about the paucity of United’s bench meaning that their game-changing subs were Obertan and Macheda. The latter went on to get a goal and United clawed two back to get a draw. Naturally all the Mancs came crawling out and tried poke a bit of fun, missing the point that they had just dropped two points. Chelsea seem a little light on the squad front too, I can’t wait until they pick up a couple of injuries at centre back and have an absolute nightmare with a debutant from the Stamford Bridge crèche that is their bench these days
Onwards with Everton then. Last season we kicked off our title challenge with a tidy 6-1 away win, but I think it goes without saying that we might not be seeing that scoreline again. Everton have been a hugely mixed bag this season, with their 12th position testament to that. They’ve only lost once at home this season, but then again they’ve only won twice too, so I don’t think their home record is going to be striking fear into our players’ hearts any time soon.
I was mildly amused by Vermaelen’s picture appearing next to the Arsenal.com injury news section; pretty apt I would say. Apparently the Belgian is a bit of a medical mystery (though we already knew that after he played a week after suffering a suspected broken leg last season) and he’s out indefinitely. We’ve no new injuries however Diaby and Gibbs sound like they’re not too far off returning to the matchday squad. Almunia too is out, for “one or two weeks” but then that was the best part of three weeks ago. Whether Wenger’s shielding him from the “dropped as #1” headlines or whether he’s just taken a little longer to recover, with Fabianki’s form it doesn’t really matter much.
Sagna Squillaci Djourou Clichy
Walcott Chamakh Arshavin
It’s a bit trickier to pick the forward line nowadays. Bendtner has been knocking on the door but while Chamakh continues to perform he’ll continue to get the centre forward slot. Perhaps Nik will start wide right as he did pre-injury last season, with Theo on the bench, though the England international hardly deserves to be benched either. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Nasri somewhere in the line-up either, though I didn’t manage to fit him in to mine. Arshavin left, Chamakh in the middle and Theo on the right, with plenty of options on the bench if we need to change things around.
Fabianski continues in goal after a a great performance at Wolves, while the back four is as you’d expect with Koscielny serving the last game of his two-match ban. Song and Wilshere play deep (though the latter may be rested, if Arsène’s recent musings are anything to go by) while Cesc continues in the middle.
With all those options in midfield and attack, we could feasibly put this out too:
Bendtner Van Persie Rosicky
Which just goes to show the crazy depth we have in our squad. As for Everton (to shamelessly use their official site) they are missing Osman and Anichebe, while Belgian Fellaini is serving a suspension. Wide-man Pienaar is one to watch with various of Europe’s top clubs keeping an eye on him with his contract running out at the end of the season. The aerial prowess of Tim Cahill will have me worried too. They do have Rodwell and Heitinga back in contention, two solid defensive players so let’s hope they’re lacking match sharpness.
It should be a cracker. Everton are a decent side, who started poorly (seemingly a habit after the last couple of seasons) and are picking up the results now, with a few blips upon the way. Let’s hope for another of those blips for them on Sunday, as three points would take us above the Mancs, which would be lovely. I’ve no idea how it’s going to go, so I’m going to plump for a traditional 1-0 to the Arsenal.
English followers of the Arsenal – spare a thought for this writer. On Wednesday, France are playing at Wembley, and I myself am currently based in France studying. It’s either going to go one of two ways – we lose and my every move is followed by a reminder of the score, or we win and I’m able to dish it out until the cows come home. It is only a friendly, but I really hope Capello doesn’t make too many changes and make us lose. I don’t thin k I’ve ever been so bothered about England in my life, but just this once, I’d love it if they could do me proud.
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