Another tough away game awaits the boys tomorrow in another miserable Northern ground. Everton are a good side, especially at home. A draw tomorrow would not be a disastrous result and I would take a point now if we were offered it. With Manchester United slipping to a draw at Villa earlier today (and they should have been hammered out of sight, before a superb comeback) a win at Everton would be a massive result.
Marouane Fellaini did us a favour in midweek by getting himself sent-off. Fellaini is a bit of a nutter on the pitch, but make no mistake he is a very good footballer. His absence from the Everton midfield takes away a massive physical presence, as well as a genuine aerial threat in the penalty area. Everton have plenty of other players who could hurt us though, with Saha, Yakubu and Cahill all massive danger men in attacking areas. We have fallen victim to Cahill at set pieces in the past (as have most Premier League clubs) and dealing with his threat will be crucial to Arsenal getting a result. At the back they have players like Jagielka, Distin and Heitinga who all possess pace and quality. It is vital that Fabregas and others get around Chamakh and support him. If we can keep the ball up front then our passing can damage the Everton defence. The battle will be won and lost in midfield and a gritty performance is going to be required at Goodison.
Kieran Gibbs is back in the squad for tomorrow. I would have no hesitation in playing him ahead of Clichy. If there is a defence of Clichy (and Sagna for that matter) it is that there is not enough help from the attacking players for our full-backs. On both sides of the defence we are regularly exposed by a two-on-one situation. However, that doesn't excuse the lapses in concentration fron Clichy, and the making of the same errors over and over again. Arsene Wenger made a point of announcing Gibbs' availability on Friday. It will be interesting to see whether this was done to make it clear that the boy will play, or simply to give Clichy a kick up the backside.
Tomas Rosicky had a decent game at Wolves by all accounts, so there is a chance he will keep his place in the starting line-up. It would be a shock if Samir Nasri was left out again, so it would seem a straight choice between Arshavin and Rosicky to miss out. There might, I suppose, be a complete shock and Wenger could bring Nasri in for Fabregas, though it would one hell of a departure for Wenger to do something quite so surprisng with his selection. It's a difficult line-up to predict tomorrow, but I would go with this:
Fabianski - Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs - Song, Wilshere, Fabregas - Arshavin, Chamakh, Nasri.
Nicklas Bendtner has been having his say again. The Dane thinks he should be starting more matches, and says he would have to consider leaving Arsenal if he doesn't get more playing time. I have always quite liked Bendtner, but Chamakh's ability has really shown up the shortcomings of the big man. I don't believe Bendtner is anything like as bad as some of the fans (and the press) would like to make you think. However, Chamakh is really in a different league. There is no way Nicklas can realistically expect to play in front of the Moroccan, or Robin Van Persie. With Jay Emmanuel-Thomas waiting in the wings, and looking ever more impressive, and Benik Afobe also coming through, I don't think there would be too many tears shed if Bendtner did leave the Club. Nicklas Bendtner is a good player, who scores goals in the Premier League, but he not as good as he thinks he is. That, perhaps, is his biggest failing.
Apparently Arsenal Ladies won their latest round in the monkey tennis Champions League the other day. Does anyone care? No, I didn't think so. More tomorrow, after the match.