Jack The Lad - almost certain to appear tomorrow
One of the problems with my job is that I am paid to actually turn up on a certain number of weekends during the year. As it also involves a fixed shift pattern there are now a number (a far higher number than I would be happy with) of games during the season that I have to miss. Obviously I take leave etc for matches I absolutely don't want to miss, but I have to be careful that I am not missing so many weekends that I end up in hock to my employer. As such I will not be in attendance tomorrow. I also missed the QPR match last season. I have a feeling that the last time I actually watched QPR play Arsenal was Adrian Clarke's Arsenal debut back in 1994 - the game in which John Jensen got his only goal for the Club.
I've been amazed that the official website has run interviews over the past couple of days with Wenger and one or two players with regards to "bouncing back" or words of a similar nature. They ran the same sort of stuff between the Norwich and Schalke matches. There comes a point where they're simply space filling as the words cease to have any substance to them when you produce the sort of display we saw against the Germans on Wednesday evening. It's a bit like last year when they seemed to have poor old Johan Djourou coming out with the same stuff week on week as part of a regular feature.
The team news is centring around the returns of Bacary Sagna and Jack Wilshere. I would be disappointed if Sagna came straight back in to the side ahead of Carl Jenkinson as soon as he is fit. Jenkinson has been outstanding and deserves the chance to show he can hold on to his place. If I was bringing Sagna back it would be on the other side of the back four in place of Andre Santos. I say this as much for Santos' own protection as for the extra insurance it might provide to Vito Mannone's goal. Santos has been the subject of some pretty over the top criticism on a number of websites this past two days. I have a very real fear that the many muppets often comprising the match day crowd at home games seem to think they've found themselves a new Eboue to abuse. I can just hear the reaction now to Santos' first misplaced pass tomorrow.
Jack Wilshere will almost certainly make an appearance at some point in the match. The only question mark is whether or not he plays from the start. Wenger has consistently told of the need to be patient and cautious with Wilshere's return, and I am certain that the Reading game on Tuesday was always the intended return date for him. That being the case it would be a surprise to me if Jack was in the starting eleven tomorrow, but such has been the paucity of our midfield this week Wenger might just think the spark he can provide will be necessary - not just on the pitch, but also with the supporters inside the stadium. If I was starting Jack I would be leaving out Santi Cazorla or, at least, moving the Spaniard out to the right. I thought Coquelin played really well on Wednesday and deserves to keep his place, so that would mean Ramsey definitely dropping out.
There is a chance that Theo Walcott may also be fit for tomorrow, and he would be my preferred option through the centre. I've heard people calling for Giroud to be given a run of games in order to find his confidence, but I don't agree with that - the guy cost £12m, if he's that brittle then he shouldn't be here in the first place. I have always said that Walcott can not play in the centre in this current system, and I stick by that. However, Podolski, Giroud and Gervinho have all been found wanting in there, so why shouldn't Theo be given his opportunity? I never thought I would be saying this but we have missed Walcott's pace and potential impact in the last two matches. Whatever I might say about his overall ability opposition defences are frightened by him, especially off the bench, and this opens up space for others as they double up on Walcott more often than not.
QPR are looking for their first win of the season. With the way Arsenal are playing they will fancy their chances. If they put in the effort that Norwich and Schalke did, and Arsenal fail to perform yet again, then Rangers will beat us tomorrow. When we played at Loftus Road last Spring that is exactly what happened - Arsenal were woeful and QPR put in the hard yards to get a deserved win. It was one of the games that Wenger told us he had underestimated the opponents, just as he did last week.
I've always not minded QPR for some reason, but since Mark Hughes took over I've disliked them a lot. Hughes is a cretin of the highest order, and an utterly awful Manager - do you remember his "tactics" when we played Blackburn in the FA Cup Semi-Final at Cardiff in 2005? Basically it involved Robbie Savage and Andy Todd assaulting anyone in a red shirt. As a player Hughes was a real talent, but was among the dirtiest players I ever saw. He was constantly getting away with fouling his centre-half, kicking and elbowing his way through game after game. I also remember scoring a winner for Manchester United with his hand in front of the Clock End one November. I really despise Mark Hughes. I was surprised when QPR appointed him, but I'm not surprised that they're struggling with him in charge. Tomorrow Arsenal have the chance to get back to winning ways while adding the bonus of pushing Mark Hughes, and his ever sharpened elbows, towards football's permanent scrapheap.
Hopefully I'll get to see some in depth highlights late tomorrow night, but any match review will be written with that in mind.