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Friday, 18 March 2011

West Brom (a) preview - beware the muppet

Stuart Attwell - God help us

I was already not really looking forward to Arsenal's return to action after an interminable week of reflection and being the butt of Spurs' fans jibes. My sense of anxiety appears to be well placed with Stuart Attwell placed in charge of the match tomorrow. I can't understand how this man is continuing to be allowed to referee in professional football, at any level. For him to be put in charge of a game involving two sides embroiled in the heat of the action, at either end of the Premier League, is beyond comprehension. Attwell seems unable to get through a match without making himself the main story by way of some controversy or other. The one positive thing that can be said about him is that we can be sure of his intergrity - the man is quite simply an incompetent buffoon, rather than a dishonest cheat. Any time you go to a match and hear both sets of fans joining in a chorus aimed at the referee then you know you are seeing one of the very worst - Attwell falls in to that category (just about every week it seems). The only hope you have in a match with Attwell is that his most catastriphic decisions go the way of your team. Tomorrow was already a key game for Arsenal in the context of the season. That our prospects might well be hit by the referee, aside from our own failings, is a very sobering thought indeed (and I don't drink as it is).
The Arsenal team will see Jens Lehmann (given the number 13 shirt) on the bench. I was interested in Wenger's quote from yesterday where he said "if I choose to play him." It struck me that Wenger may yet be tempted to replace Almunia with the veteran at some point before the season ends. On the other hand it might just have been a not so veiled threat to Almunia in order to keep the Spaniard on his toes, and to focus him on the job at hand. Abou Diaby is injured apparently (cue rapturous responses from lots of Arsenal fans, no doubt) so we are even less well represented in midfield. If this means a return for Aaron Ramsey then I am all for it, but I fear it is more likely to prepare a path for Tomas Rosicky to get yet another go at "playing Fabregas."
When West Brom came to our place a few months back they completely outplayed Arsenal and the 3-2 win they achieved was not a fair reflection of their dominance. Arsenal only got going that day when Samir Nasri was moved inside and scored two good goals - take note Arsene. If that game taught the Arsenal players anything then it should be that West Brom should not be taken for granted. With Hodgson in charge they would likely be less of an attacking force, but breaking down a newly organised defence (take note again Arsene) may be quite difficult. If I was picking the Arsenal line-up it would see Ramsey and Wilshere playing behind Nasri in the midfield, and Van Persie supported by Arshavin, from the left, and Eboue from the right. We've seen precious little of Eboue recently, especially on the wing. This seems strange when one considers how, not so long ago, the Manager considered the Ivorian to be a better bet than Theo Walcott in that position. Eboue has been poor, more often than not, this season but I would have him in the side tomorrow with the express instructions that he is to run at his full-back and get the ball across goal at every opportunity. One of the things we have missed recently is pace out wide, and a direct runner who will commit the defence. Unfortunately I can't see Wenger doing anything like that, and this is how I see us lining up:
Almunia - Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy - Denilson, Wilshere, Rosicky - Arshavin, Van Persie, Nasri
As I said earlier, West Brom have players that can hurt Arsenal. They know they can beat Arsenal. We have to hope that our own players have managed to shake off the recent disappointments over the course of this last week. If they have then they are doing far better than me.

I'll review the match on Sunday as I have to work following the game tomorrow. We need to get some confidence back, and tomorrow is when it has to happen.

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