And so the game against table-topping Manchester City is almost upon us. After a succession of holidays, it’ll be the first competetive game I’ve attended this season, and I’m more than a little excited.
To the right is my guess at who might line up in red-and-white. Although Rosicky and Adebayor are available, I suspect Arsene may be cautious about throwing them straight back in. I do think, however, that with Captain Gallas missing, Arsene may immediately introduce the experience and know-how of Brazilian midfielder Gilberto Silva.
A lot of eyes will be on Manuel Almunia in the Arsenal goal, though I’d suggest spectators divert them to the other end – without wanting to jinx us, I believe young Kasper Schmeichel to be highly indecisive and error-prone. If we can test the Dane, we could reap the rewards.
The players to watch out for are Martin Petrov and Elano, who will play on the flanks in support of Rolando Bianchi. That’s another reason to bring Gilberto back-in: both these players like to drift inside and shoot from range. Gilberto could be vital in protecting that area just outside our penalty box.
I do think we’ll beat City though. Call it a hunch. 2-1.
Arsene didn’t hold his traditional press conference yesterday as he had spent Thursday at the launch of Arsenal’s new charity, Treehouse. Henry Winter has a fascinating collection of quotes from Arsene, on subjects ranging from autism to the Olympics. It’s really worth a read. Particularly interesting is Arsene’s description of the development of a young player:
“You build the player like a house. The basis is the technique that happens before 12. If the player can play, the next floor is the physique at 14-15. Then it the tactical ability – how to use your technique and physique in the game.
The last part, the roof, is the mental side. If you have no roof, it rains in your house. How competitive are you? How motivated to do well every day? That is the final step. I believe that hunger is something you get at 18 and remains relatively stable during your life. That is decided between 18 and 20. And that decides careers.
You are not born with hunger. Roy Keane was competitive [from a young age], but why? You need to be psychoanalytical to see why. Sometimes the same adversity can have a bad effect. If you have a strong father, you can fight against him or completely lie down. Maybe Roy Keane had the first reaction, to fight the father. I don’t know.”
One player who certainly has a roof over his head is Cesc Fabregas. It’s certainly easy to forget how young he still is:
“When I scored my first goal, against Wolverhampton, I went home and celebrated by drinking a Coca-Cola and eating a Kinder Egg.”
He’s been talking about the positives behind Thierry Henry’s departure:
“Thierry is the best I’ve ever played with. There’s no doubt. But there was this other factor. He is Thierry Henry. When I came I felt I was low and he was high. It was a big difference and for a long time I was intimidated. When I had the ball I felt I had no choice but to look for him. I did this because, one, he is the best and, two, because I had the feeling I had to pass it to him. He has such a strong character that he almost made you feel this way. I needed him to say, ‘Look, you don’t always have to play the ball to me.’ Once he said that, I was free and I gave him even more assists.”
Perhaps other players, such as Hleb and Rosicky, will now experience this same freedom.
We now have three home games before we travel to Tottenham. It’s a chance to build up a head of steam that I hope we don’t neglect.