It's back to action for Arsenal today, as they make a trip to relegation threatened Blackpool. In the home game against the same opposition Arsenal ran out 6-0 winners, after Blackpool were reduced to 10 men. A similar result would be just what the doctor ordered for an Arsenal team that has failed to win any of their last three Premier League games.
The results yesterday would have been very welcome for Blackpool, as the three teams below them were all beaten. It leaves them one point above the drop zone, and any points they can get from Arsenal would be a welcome boost to their chances of staying up. They have done remarkably well in the first season in the Premier League, despite their limited funds, and I genuinely hope that they stay up. With five of their remaining seven games at home they have a good chance of doing just that.
One of the main reasons they have managed to do so well is because of the performances of Charlie Adam. He has been nominated for the player of the year award, and of all the candidates I think he deserves the award the most. It is vital for Arsenal today that they manage to contain him, and give him as few chances ad possible to use his left foot from set pieces. So far this season he has managed 9 goals and 7 assists for Blackpool, and it's safe to say they would probably be well adrift at the bottom of the table without him.
The results at the top end of the table didn't go Arsenal's way, and they now find themselves 10 points behind the leaders "Manure" with two games in hand. Arsenal will play twice before "Manure" play again, and they simply have to beat Blackpool today, and Liverpool next week. As usual "Manure" had their share of help from inept officials, as their first goal was allowed to stand, despite the scorer being offside. A little bit of their luck with be very handy for Arsenal today.
Besides the "Manure" win, Chelsea and the Spuds also won, as the teams behind Arsenal continue to gain ground. Arsenal are now only one point ahead of Chelsea, three ahead of Man City, and six ahead of the Spuds. They do have a game in hand on all of those teams, but they need to start putting points on the board, or a season which promised a title challenge could end in another battle to qualify for the Champions League.
Arsene Wenger spoke about today's match on Friday, and he said that Manuel Almunia will continue in goal, with Jens Lehmann on the bench. He also said Cesc Fabregas will be back in the starting line up, but Alex Song will miss out through injury. There are doubts over the availability of both Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna, and Denilson is still missing with his toe injury. Aaron Ramsey is available again after his recent injury, and he will be in the match day squad.
With Almunia in goal, the rest of the defence more or less picks itself unless Sagna fails to play. If he can't play then Emmanuel Eboue is the natural choice to fill in for him, although I am never too confident when I see him in the team. The other three defenders will of course be Gael Clichy, Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci. Arsenal's full backs are often criticised for their inability to cross the ball, but I think it's an unfair criticism of Sagna in particular. I know his crosses are far from perfect, but he has three assists so far this season in the league, and Arsenal have missed plenty of chances which were set up by his crossing.
In midfield the return of Cesc to start alongside Jack Wilshere is a welcome sight, and the big question will be who takes the role of the injured Song. I know Abu Diaby is not a similar player, but I expect him to play from the start, and hopefully he can put in one of his better performances. He can be a very frustrating player at times, but when he plays well he can really bring something to the team. I have no doubt Wilshere will play his usual game, and he will give everything he has from the first minute to the last one.
When Cesc is fully fit and playing for Arsenal he is unrivaled in the Premier League in my opinion. He has failed to start 12 of Arsenal's 30 games in the league so far this season, and Arsenal only managed to win four of those games. His inclusion is crucial for Arsenal in terms of creating scoring chances, which is something that was missing from their game at home to Blackburn last week. Hopefully his hamstring injury is now behind him for the rest of the season, and he can concentrate on his job as Arsenal's captain and star player.
The attacking trio will probably consist of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri, and Andrey Arshavin. If Walcott is passed fit he might play from the start, as his pace was a crucial factor in the hat trick he scored against Blackpool at the Emirates in the 6-0 win in August. RVP is Arsenal's leading scorer in the league, despite the fact that he has only started 11 games, and come on as a sub six times. He has managed 11 goals in those games, and more of the same is required from him today.
Blackpool play an open and attractive brand of football, and they should be ideal opponents for an Arsenal team which has struggled against defensive sides in recent games. If Blackpool give Arsenal enough space to play their own game I have no doubt that Arsenal will manage to score a few goals. As long as the Arsenal defence can keep their concentration, and don't give away any silly goals, they should be able to beat a team which has conceded more Premier League goals than any other team this season.
When things are going wrong for a team the best players need to stand up and be counted. I hope to see some Arsenal players playing as if the game was as important to them, as it is to the Arsenal fans. The league title is no longer in their own hands, but if they can give everything they have in the final eight games, there is still a chance of a trophy making it's way to north London this season.
The two players who can win this game for Arsenal are Cesc and RVP in my opinion, and I fully expect to see both of them doing just that. I'm predicting a 3-2 win for Arsenal with RVP getting a couple of the goals, and Cesc running the game. A scoreline like that will be very trying on the nerves of the Arsenal fans, but as long as they win, that's all that matters.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at RVP's goals so far this year.
See You Tomorrow.