Daily Archives: February 18, 2012
Football is a sport that has a rich vein of history and Arsenal is no stranger to this kind of season-defining fixtures because the club has been in similar situations in the yesteryear.
In the club’s inaugural season at the Emirates, Arsenal was languishing in 4th place in the league, was ousted from the Champions League knockout phase thanks to an Alex double in both nets (PSV) and were kicked out of the FA Cup by Blackburn.
Last season, it was a similar debacle when Barcelona did the damage in the Champions League while Manchester United broke Gunner hearts in the FA Cup.
Like both outcomes, Arsenal had nothing to play for as early as March and it could be a similar story if the Gunners allow the Milan disappointment to get the better of them in today’s fixture.
Speaking of disappointment, there’s an ex-Gunner legend that has expressed his frustration over the capitulation of a club he holds dear to his heart. This Gunner spent three magical years at Arsenal from 1997 to 2000 and he forged a telepathic understanding with Monsieur Vieira.
The former French pony-tailed sensation Emmanuel Petit has warned Arsenal to get rid of a host of their big names and sign six established players if they are to return to their former glories.
He has claimed that the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott are simply not good enough. Petit made a lot of quotes but I’ll have to summarize it to paint the picture vividly.
He started by saying that Arsenal hasn’t fully recovered from the departures of the creative Francesca and Samantha. He also said that the club’s shrewdness in the transfer window in recent times has made the level of the team go down.
Petit added that the club revolved its football around Francesca and the defense is still ‘under construction’. He also thanked the Heavens for Robin van Persie and reiterated that the young players haven’t done enough to justify the confidence that Arsene has in them.
He singled out some individuals for some criticism. On Theo Walcott, he said that the winger has been on the same level for years while he believed that it was Ramsey’s ‘twin brother’ that was on the pitch. He also wants the club to waves its goodbyes to Andrey Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky as their contracts would soon expire.
To top it all off, he ended his interview with this quote:
“What’s needed is five or six players of real stature, great experience. Players who are 27 – 30 years old at most. Players with technical qualities, obviously, but also strong character. A group of guys who refuse to accept defeat, who inspire confidence in the rest of the team.”
Moving over to the preview for today’s game, Arsenal visit the ground they played last week and would hope that the cattle has been moved away because the grazing took its toll on the pitch.
Historically, both sides are a bit shaky as Arsenal has won just two of their last seven FA Cup away games while Sunderland has two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six FA Cup home games.
To team news, Arsenal will be without the center back pairing from recent weeks Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. The Gentle Giant would be out for a while but efforts are in place to make the Kos fit for the North London Derby next Sunday.
The regular absentees like Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, Andre Santos and Carl Jenkinson are still nursing injuries while the King Thierry Henry will be watching this game from his TV set in the United States. However, Ivorian heartbreaker Gervinho is back in London following the end of the African Cup of Nations.
Sunderland’s defensive duo Titus Bramble and Wes Brown are still out but they’ll be glad to know that their captain Lee Cattermole is back from a hammy injury. Unfortunately, the self-proclaimed world’s best striker Nicky B won’t play because Arsenal still remains his parent club.
I expect Lukasz Fabianski to be given another run for his money while the defense will be composed of Kieran Gibbs, Bacary Sagna, Johan Djourou and Thomas Vermaelen. A game of this magnitude can’t be given to the likes of Ignasi Miquel or the walking time bomb Seb Squillaci.
I would also expect to see the boss tweak the midfield a bit by introducing Francis Coquelin in Aaron Ramsey’s stead. Alex Song and Tomas Rosicky would complete the midfield triumvirate.
With Marouane Chamakh, Gervinho and Park Chu-Young available for selection, they all have to be content with a place on the bench. I expect the forward three to be Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The schematic illustration of my expected lineup should be:
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
A great team isn’t measured by how many times they get knocked down. They are measured by how strong they are when they get back up.
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