Coquelin - I'd play him tomorrow
Tomorrow is my final game of the season. I can't make the Norwich match due to another commitment that day so I hope the boys turn it on for me tomorrow and send me off in to my personal hibernation in good spirits. If they are to do so then they will need to be at their best to beat an in-form Chelsea team that now must be overflowing with confidence. It will certainly require a 100% better performance than we had to sit through on Monday night against Wigan.
We will be missing Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun tomorrow. Regular readers will know that I have not gone in for the whole "Arteta is a crucial player for this team" stuff, but the fact that he has been the regular man all season means his absence will affect the team. Benayoun has done well in recent weeks but is ineligible to play against the Club that actually owns him. With Gervinho woefully out of form he will be a big miss tomorrow.
It is likely that Aaron Ramsey will be the straight replacement for Arteta. The Boyo has taken some fearful stick in recent weeks, though the groans of the crowd in attendance have been nothing compared to the outrageous nonsense he's had to put with in the cyber-world. From Twitter to the OnlineGooner Forum (which is once again getting out of hand in the way that those who post on there choose to criticise and abuse Arsenal players, despite claiming to "support" the Club) he has been called every name under the Sun, and has even been wished another broken leg by some cretinous individuals. It is true that Ramsey has been struggling for form and his tendency to dwell too long on the ball has caused problems. However, this kind of abuse is completely unacceptable to any real Arsenal fans. Red Action, to their credit, will be unfurling their "One Aaron Ramsey" banner before kick-off tomorrow in a show of support to our young Welshman. I have seen him blamed for the defeat on Monday night by some, despite the fact that he wasn't even on the pitch when Wigan scored both of their goals. It just shows that he is the new "boo-boy" in the absence of Eboue and Arshavin and is going to get the bird for no real reason. That being the case I would leave Ramsey on the bench tomorrow and bring in Francis Coquelin (ideally I would prefer to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in there but I am convinced he is being left out by the Manager in order to minimise the chances of him having to go to Euro 2012). Last night the official website had Arsene quoted as saying that Coquelin was not ready, but by this morning Le Boss had announced he was in the squad. I know he hasn't played in two months, but his energy, pace and effort could be crucial in the midfield battle tomorrow. It would also remove Ramsey from the firing line. Abou Diaby is also back but I can't see Wenger playing him from the start (though he has often brought him straight back in the past).
Chelsea are missing one or two themselves with Drogba (more on him below) and Luiz injured, and Ivanovic suspended. Of course this means they will bring in Fernando Torres, and you just know he will find his best form against Arsenal - they always do. It will be interesting to see if Di Matteo will rest anyone else ahead of the trip to Barcelona on Tuesday. Ashley Cole has been replaced by Ryan Bertrand in some recent games, though I think I would prefer to see the treacherous Cashley, given his record up against Theo Walcott in recent seasons. I would be surprised if Fat Frank started his third tough game in seven days, and only necessity might see John Terry have to play. With Chelsea's squad it really shouldn't make much difference. The power of Michael Essien is likely to be added to midfield, and he has done a lot of damage against us in the past. There is plenty for Arsenal to fear.
As we're playing the Chavs tomorrow it would be remiss of me to not comment on Didier Drogba's performance against Barcelona on Wednesday. That word "performance" applies in every sense in this case. When he was on his feet the only thing lacking was a yard of pace that has been lost over the years. Much as against Spurs on Sunday he was too big and too good for Barcelona's defenders. It begs the question, therefore, as to why he spent most of the game rolling around on the floor. In the end it became embarrassing. The game, overall, was one that only Chelsea supporters could enjoy (I don't have a problem with that as they are under no obligation to "entertain" anybody - they simply had to get the job done) but I think most neutrals would have taken a dislike to them simply because of Drogba's behaviour. If that had been Sergio Busquets (as it has been so often in the past, and will be in the future) then we would not have heard the end of the bleating about it. Quite how a man the size of Drogba, with such physical qualities, and who has beasted so many centre-halves (not least from Arsenal) over the years can bring himself down to such a disgusting level is beyond me. As it is, his goal and, more importantly, the clean sheet at home have given Chelsea a huge chance to go through. If they score in the Nou Camp then Barca must get three. Obviously they are more than capable, but that doesn't make it an easy thing to do.
I'll write a match review tomorrow evening.