Sunday looms. Rarely in the recent past can we have entered a NLD with so much, on the face of it, going our way. Form, confidence and momentum are all with us. Even this week, comparing the injury crises that have affected both sides’ preparations, ours has relieved whilst theirs has deepened.
Nothing has been achieved yet though and if we behave as though it has then nothing will be. With thirteen games left there’s plenty of scope for things to go tits up, there’s still a third of the season to go. As was proved last Sunday just turning up isn’t enough no matter what your league position is or what the bookies say. In fact despite the opening paragraph Arsenal are still shorter odds to win at the weekend than we are; that gives an indication of the task ahead.
Wenger is always banging on about the ‘character’ and ‘mental strength’ of his side; they’ll be wanting to prove him right. They’ve let down two large groups of travelling support in a week and if they’ve got anything about them will want to repair some of the damage they’ve caused. They’ll have to do it with a weakened side. Mertesacker, Ramsey, Gibbs and Chamakh are the latest additions to a long list of players (possibly) sitting this one out. Importantly though, Van Persie continues his unusually long for him, injury-free run.
At the start of the week we looked stretched and a repeat of the Anfield bench looked probable. That would’ve led to a reprise of the safety first attitude we took to Liverpool, an attitude that got us a point but left a slight taste of dissatisfaction in the mouth. Now though Harry has options. All of Adebayor, Van der Vaart, Modric, Assou-Ekotto, Kranjcar and King must still be doubtful but at least some of those will make it. Assuming there has been no reaction to his cameo at Stevenage, Lennon should take his place on the right bringing the balance we miss so badly when he’s not there. Up front Redknapp must be sorely tempted to give the Saha and Adebayor partnership another outing given its success against Newcastle. Van der Vaart is a key player though and Harry quite rightly plays him at every opportunity.
Mike Dean is due to referee, he took charge of the corresponding fixture at WHL in September.
Our start to the game could be all important. An early goal for us will see chins drop to red shirted breasts on the field and black bin bags come out off it. We are the better team and need to make sure we’re not shy about showing it by playing with the tempo, width and pace that has been blowing teams away all season. Our players realise the importance of this game and have the commitment and skill to achieve the result we want most in this and every season. COYS.
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