Szczesny - could be busy tomorrow
So it's back to business tomorrow afternoon with the visit of Sunderland. At the start of the season I really fancied Sunderland to do very well. They might have lost a few good players but they bought a virtually new team, and a lot of those recruited are of proven Premier League quality. The start they've made, therefore, has me a little surprised. I had forgotten, of course, that their Manager is the cretinous Steve Bruce. Here is a man who has twice walked out on previous jobs so I don't really see how too many players would have respect for him. He certainly would be in no position to ever preach loyalty to his charges. He is also the man, you will recall, who tried to call his players off the pitch at Highbury after a perfectly legitimate (albeit not in the spirit of the game) goal had been scored by Overmars against Sheffield United. He was also the man who claimed that Arsenal's offer of a replay wasn't really enough, but he would have to accept it. As I said, he's a complete cretin.
Having said all of that, Sunderland will cause us problems tomorrow. It is a blessing that Nicklas Bendtner is ineligible for the match. I know he hasn't really been among the goals yet on Wearside, but he has been quietly impressive in his play and the Sunderland fans certainly like him. He is a genuine target at the front and is the sort of player that Seb Larsson would never tire of trying to find. Larsson has given us trouble in the past, not least in the Carling Cup Final when he consistently found the head of Zigic. If Larsson gets wide, and we do our usual thing of allowing the cross to get in the box, then Wojciech Szczesny will need to be on his mettle. The Pole has commanded his area well, despite the amateurish play in front of him. I am concerned at him suffering a back injury - Chris Kirkland has had his career wrecked by such problems - and we will need him fit for tomorrow.
For Arsenal we have the issue of who should play at right-back. Carl Jenkinson has had plenty of stick recently but we should not be surprised if the youngster struggles a bit. Less than a year ago he was playing for Eastbourne in the Conference, and now is being expected to play in the Premier League. It's not his fault, and nobody should be getting on his back if he makes an error or two - particularly not a lazy little toerag like Theo Walcott, who consistently fails to help his full-back by not tracking back (I nearly fainted last night when I saw Wenger saying how Chamberlain needs to add such things to his game - does he not watch Theo and Arshavin?) My personal view is that Coquelin should be the man filling in for Sagna but the Manager has ruled that out. I would also keep Song alongside Mertesacker, with Frimpong coming in to the midfield. It's not going to happen, though, and Koscielny will move straight back alongside the German (who has the best chant of any Arsenal player right now!)
In midfield I want to see Mikel Arteta moving further forward to influence the play. Arteta lacks pace, so the closer he can get to Van Persie in order to make things happen, the better he will play. Both he and Ramsey have really got to raise their game if Arsenal are to have anything approaching success this season. In the formation Arsenal play the midfield is so important in supporting their centre-forward. Fabregas, of course, was exceptional at it. Nasri had a four month period last season where he was the key man, in Fabregas' stead. Now we need Ramsey and Arteta to step up. Their performance at Spurs was shocking, and I hope they both had a serious kick up the backside. I would not be averse to seeing Ramsey replaced by Benayoun tomorrow but I doubt that will happen.
As ever it's a big game tomorrow. I believe there will be a lot of empty seats, and I hope this rings alarm bells with the powers that be. Arsenal has a genuine core support of less than 30,000. Too much more of what we've been seeing since February, and it might be that we are watching the boys in a half-empty stadium before too long. The players need to get themselves motivated and do something about the slide we have been on. The fans deserve some effort, at least.