So here we go then, back to the Premier League after a fortnight of boredom. Two weeks of hoping not too many players come back in plaster are over and we can get on with the important business of watching Arsenal. In fairness, following two defeats in a row in the Premier League, the break came at a decent time in my opinion. The injuries we were suffering before the Chelsea game meant that Wenger had a reasonable number of players in for training for a change during the internationals (and Carlos Vela's Mexico ban meant he didn't have to go globetrotting).
Yesterday we were told that Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner and Kieran Gibbs were all available for the squad tomorrow. Meanwhile Fabregas, Sagna, Vermaelen and Van Persie are still out, as is Manuel Almunia. This means that our striking options are a little more flexible than they have been, but we remain short-handed in central defence. I will be disappointed to see Koscielny and Squillaci line up together again tomorrow - they've conceded five goals in two league games, and been made to look pretty ordinary. In my view it's time for Johan Djourou to come in to the side, but I doubt he will. The return of Gibbs will hopefully see Gael Clichy back on the subs bench. With Sagna out of the side, Emmanuel Eboue will have an opportunity to play a few matches in his real position at right-back. I like Eboue - the way he battled back from the Wigan match two years ago shows real mental fortitude - and I would like to think that a couple of decent performances will see him retain his place when Sagna is fit. Sagna is very good in the air, but his defensive performances have become sub-standard and his attacking play is woeful - his crossing of the ball is on a par with that of Clichy. As I say, Eboue now has a chance to stake his claim to a starting berth at full-back - it's up to him to make the most of the opportunity. I would also like to see Alex Song dropped, in the interests of giving him a genuine kick up the arse, with Denilson coming in to replace him. My starting line-up would be somewhat different from Arsene Wenger's, I am sure, so this is what I think it might be - rather than what I would like it to be:
Fabianski - Eboue, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy - Song, Wilshere, Nasri - Arshavin, Chamakh, Rosicky.
Birmingham look set to be without Cameron Jerome. This is good news for me as Arsenal do not cope well with a big, physical striker. However, he will likely be replaced by the even bigger Nikola Zigic. Since arriving at Birmingham Zigic has been pretty disappointing - a 6'7" striker who doesn't jump his height - but against Arsenal's centre-halves he might just come in to his own. Birmingham will have Seb Larsson playing out wide and looking to put his quality crosses on to the head of the big man. Whoever is playing at left-back for Arsenal, whether it be Clichy or Gibbs, will have to break the habit of a lifetime and get close to Larsson, making sure that the crosses do not come in. We certainly can't rely on our goalkeeper to come and take things in the box. Birmingham are also dangerous at set-pieces, with Ridgewell a regular scorer from those situations.
Alexander Hleb is doubtful for the opposition, and has issued a statement denying that he is unhappy there. This is a man, remember, who left Arsenal because he didn't like London life (he neglected to mention the £60,000-a-week pay-rise at Barcelona). Let's face it, if you didn't like London, you'll bloody despise Birmingham. Hleb not playing would be a good thing for Arsenal as I am never keen on seeing ex-players come back to embarrass us. Admittedly, it is unlikely that Hleb would do much shooting if he got near the box, but I'd rather not find out.
I'll post my views on the game at some point tomorrow night. Three points and a couple of goals would do nicely and make the journey home infinitely more enjoyable.