Thomas Vermaelen has suffered another "setback." This injury saga is starting to take the same form as that which afflicted Rosicky. When Vermaelen first suffered the injury we were told he'd back in days, just like Rosicky. Ever since then we have been fed the same old lines, right up until today when Wenger announced that Arsenal were seeking out specialists all over the World for advice. The fact is that Thomas Vermaelen has a very serious problem with his achilles and nobody at Arsenal has a clue how to cure it. I had already written the Belgian off for the rest of this season, in spite of Arsene's claims over his imminent recovery (every few weeks), but I am now starting to fear for his future as a player at this level. Any injury to the achilles is notoriously difficult to recover from and this is proving to be no exception. As a result of this latest problem, and the diagnosis of Squillaci's injury, Arsene Wenger has confirmed he is looking for a centre-half. We have to live in hope that we don't sign yet another unknown Frenchman on the cheap, but that we go out and get someone with Premier League, or European, credibility.
Ahead of the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final tomorrow night there is very little news about. In terms of team news the official website is carrying nothing. We know that Eboue will almost certainly continue at right-back, and I think Gibbs and Szczesny will also keep their places. Koscielny will surely come in to the back-four, but will Djourou continue or be rested in favour of Ignasi Miquel? I would be annoyed to see an untried youngster make his debut in what is such a big game for our Club, having not won a trophy in six years. In midfield I don't want to see Denilson or Arshavin or Rosicky after what we put up with on Saturday, but I fear all three will keep their places. I also expect Nicklas Bendtner to find himself out wide and getting slagged by the uneducated once more - he's not as good as he thinks he is, but perhaps if he played at centre-forward he would look a little less awkward. The other thing with Bendtner is that he is rarely lacking in effort on the pitch which is more than could be said for people like Arshavin and co. My personal preference would be for a full first-team tomorrow night in order to get the job done and win by three or four goals. Wenger won't do that so I reckon the game might be a bit tighter than Chelsea's cup-tie with Ipswich on Sunday. Sadly I will have to employ the Sky+ to watch the game when I get home from work on Thursday morning - the only problem with my shift system is that it doesn't lend itself to arrangements around cup-ties, though this might become an issue for the majority of home games for me over the next few months.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post the Reserves were playing at Aston Villa last night. In the absence of any centre-backs at the Club there was a rather unsuited combination in Arsenal's back-four, for the first-half at least, before Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was moved back to "help." Arsenal Reserves (admittedly down to ten men early on) conceded five goals in each half and lost 10-1. Such a result is a disgrace to the Arsenal name and an embarrassment to the Arsenal shirt, no matter what the level, or the team selection. James Shea, the Arsenal goalkeeper, seems to have been pretty blameless throughout but the result will haunt his career wherever he goes - he was, and is forever now, the Arsenal goalkeeper that let in ten goals. Every one of the young men involved should be ashamed of what went on last night and so too should Neil Banfield. I have no doubt that the result might be the final nail in the Arsenal career of a number of the youngsters involved and, perhaps, rightly so.
More on Thursday with a review of the Ipswich match. I'm hoping that we can look forward to a relaxing second-leg, safe in the knowledge that we're off to Wembley at the end of February. I won't hold my breath though, if it's all the same to you.