Kieran has to play this evening
Having watched Andros Townsend give Nacho Monreal the run around at QPR last week, and having watched Calum McManaman tear Gael Clichy a new one at Wembley on Saturday, there is no doubt in my mind that Kieran Gibbs must play tonight. Until last week I'd been reasonably impressed by Monreal. But he was utterly destroyed by a player not good enough to get near the Tottenham team. The Spaniard's complete lack of pace was frightening. In the past he has shown a good reading of the game and his positional play was such that his slowness was not exposed. Against QPR he was all over the place and we were lucky Townsend was playing with such a complete bunch of donkeys on the day. Last season Kieran Gibbs made an amazing last ditch tackle to ensure the win at West Brom on the last day. As far as I'm concerned we need Gibbo to play in both of our final games, but that will mean him actually staying fit for a whole week. His fragility worries me and it is holding him back from a very bright future. The improvement in Gibbs over the last eighteen months has been superb and I want to see him be Arsenal's main man in years to come. He might never be as good as Cashley but if he could stay fit he could give it a good go.
Elsewhere on the pitch it seems certain that Lukas Podolski will not be playing through the centre. I suspect that will mean him being back on the bench but I would far rather Poldi was on the pitch from the start. Wenger's excuses for taking him off all the time, as he gave the press yesterday, simply don't add up. The fact that Podolski is the one man that can shoot to devastating effect and is a natural finisher means he must play in games in which you have no choice other than to win. Obviously the system isn't going to change, but I would move Walcott in to the centre and Podolski to the left. I would then bring in Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and leave out Rosicky to allow Cazorla back in to the centre. Cazorla hasn't had an influence on a game for some time. By the way the season has gone that means he is due a performance. I also think, despite a growing reputation for not working for the team, Podolski will give Gibbs more support by tracking back - Cazorla wanders off so much that our left-back is completely exposed when he plays wide.
The other big decision is who plays in goal. Lukasz Fabianski is back to fitness following the rib injury inflicted on him by Grant Holt's elbow. Fabianski was outstanding in the games he played before that injury, but Szczesny has played very well in the last two games. The decision for Wenger is whether he goes for the man in possession, or whether he makes Fabianski his number one. Both men are error prone, and neither is really good enough, so it is a massive deal for the Manager to make the right choice. Perhaps he should ask his centre-halves who they prefer to play in front of. For me, Mertesacker and Koscielny look far more confident with Fabianski between the sticks, but maybe that's a false impression.
Whatever the team selection this evening Arsenal must play better than they did at QPR. There has to be pace in the way we go forward. We have to run at the opposition and make things happen, rather than the interminable crabbing sideways across the opposition back-four. When we play at pace we destroy teams. When we run at opponents we cause them problems. Look at the previous two home games as the example. Against Norwich we did nothing for 80 minutes. When The Ox came on with Podolski they took on defenders. Ox ran at their back four and committed players to the tackle. The result was Giroud's goal that put us ahead. Then there was the Man Utd game where our midfield ran theirs off the pitch, and Rosicky went at people with the ball at his feet. The end result was a Man Utd side reduced to kicking just to stay in the game. What was missing was the actual shot at goal, which is another thing that must happen tonight. It is not acceptable to dominate games as we did in the first half-hour against Man Utd and QPR, only to get to half-time and find that our own goalkeeper is the one who has had to make the saves. If you don't shoot, you won't score - just ask Frank Lampard.
I'm not going to be there tonight as I am at work just after 3am tomorrow and flying to Lisbon. I'll be watching on Sky and feeling annoyed that I'm not at the game. I just hope that's my only reason to be annoyed. As I'll be out of the country there'll be no match review, nor will there be a preview of the Newcastle game. When I next write we will know how the season has finished. Come on Arsenal!!!