Arsene Wenger might find International weeks irritating, but sometimes they solve his problems for him. In the week between the end of the transfer window and our game against Middlesbrough, he must have been pondering how best to accommodate his new players. Should Gallas play at left-back or centre-back? Will Baptista play, and if so should it be in midfield or upfront? Well, the past few days have in part answered those questions, and several more.
Jens Lehmann‘s clean sheet for Germany is slightly less impressive when you consider the opposition: San Marino. An incredible 13-0 win gave yet more ammunition to those who suggest a pre-qualifying tournament for these championships. However, he is certain to keep his place.
In defence, our options are compromised by the fact that Johan Djourou picked up an injury playing for the Swiss U-21s. This means that Justin Hoyte, who impressed for England in the same game, is likely to retain his place at left-back. Taking Djourou’s centre-back role will be William Gallas, who is set to make his Arsenal debut. Word is that Johan’s shoulder injury could be at least medium term, so it’s fantastic to have Gallas here whilst our two Swiss lads get over their respective shoulder problems.
In midfield, Gilberto‘s two displays for Brazil against Argentina and Wales were impressive enough to guarantee his place, whilst Cesc‘s delightful through ball for David Villa in Spain’s remarkable defeat to Northern Ireland showed his worth to any team. Therefore, I’d expect these two to remain our central partnership of choice.
On the flank’s, Tomas Rosicky will most likely be joined by Alex Hleb. Rosicky captained the Czech Republic to two wins in the past week, particularly impressing against Wales, whilst Wenger seems to favour Hleb’s trickery over another International skipper, Freddie Ljungberg.
Although Hleb did give Holland a bit of trouble, they ultimately won 3-0, and Robin van Persie was the star. It’s surely impossible to drop someone who has just scored two goals of this quality. Van Persie will almost certainly be joined up front by Thierry Henry, who also scored as France gained revenge on Italy.
This means that Julio Baptista is likely to start on the bench, where he may be joined by Theo Walcott, who scored his second England U-21 goal in two games.
This should leave us with a line-up looking something like the one on the left. When you consider that this doesn’t include players like Baptista, Ljungberg, Walcott and Emmanuel Adebayor it’s clear our squad has more depth than it has had for some time.
Speaking of Adebayor, he was joined by Alex Song, Armand Traore, Mathieu Flamini and Manuel Almunia in an Arsenal friendly against Thai side BEC Tero Sasana. You know, just so they didn’t feel left out in International week.
I’ve been looking forward to Saturday ever since about 1.30am on Saturday morning, which is when the last of our transfer business was finally completed. What we have now is a squad full of players who are eager to succeed in the red-and-white of Arsenal.
It’s the first game I’ll have been to this season, and I’ve really missed the competetive edge of regular Premiership action. Last year this fixture was pretty kind to us, let’s hope it’s not too dissimiliar tomorrow.