Archive for November 29th, 2009

Forget RVP – These are the men who can win us the game today

Add comment November 29th, 2009

Difficult as it may be, we need to wipe away the fog of gloom that has swept in since the news of Robin van Persie’s ruptured ankle ligaments.  Today sees a massive game against Chelsea – lose, and an eleven point gap coupled with the loss of our best striker would make the title but a distant dream.

Win, however, and everyone will be full of hope – especially if the front three can cause them trouble without their Dutch comrade.

It strikes me that there are three players whose performances today will be absolutely critical in determining the result.  I touched on the first of these yesterday, but I can’t emphasise enough how important it is that Thomas Vermaelen is on top form.  He’s either going to be partnered by a battered and partially-sighted William Gallas, or by a fully fit Mikael Silvestre – both equally tricky challenges in their own right.  Not only that but he’s up against the in-form Didier Drogba and the eternally evil Nicolas Anelka.  Vermaelen has looked an exceptional buy thus far, but then so did Pascal Cygan.  So, for a time, did Philippe Senderos.  Whilst I’m confident that The Verminator is far superior to those players, the proof will only be drawn when we see him come through tests like today.

The same, to a degree, is true of Alex Song.  The manager confirmed that his new deal is even longer than we had originally thought, and based on recent form it’s easy to justify.  However, strong performances against the likes of Wolves and Sunderland will count for little if Song falls short against midfields in Chelsea’s titanic mould.  The way in which he and Denilson deal with the power and movement of Ballack, Lampard and Essien will decide whether or not we establish the platform to play our own game.

If we can get hold of the ball, the man most likely to do the damage in the absence of Van Persie is Andrey Arshavin.  The hobbity playmaker has been down in the dumps following Russia’s failure to qualify for the World Cup:

“I am inconsolable and desolate at what has happened. My family keep telling me that I should forget it as soon as possible, that I should now switch to the club matters and the Champions League but that’s easier said than done.

Nothing revives me so far. When Arsene Wenger asked me what state I was in, I honestly told him that at the moment I just do not want to play football at all. He talked to me for a long time. He said, too, that I need to switch my attention. But I cannot do it yet.”

“Inconsolable” he may be, but if anything was going to snap him out of it will have been the thump to the head he received against Liege.  Arsene is confident Arshavin will bounce back, saying:

“He came back from Slovenia very down and that’s the main reason I did not play him from the start against Sunderland. You want players to be 100 per cent focussed, play a game like it’s life or death, and it is impossible not to be down if you don’t win. If you care, you are down. Arshavin is Russia captain and he is 28. At the next World Cup he will be 33.

He is a winner and strong mentally and when his back is to the wall he responds. He is a tough boy.”

Arshavin has already scored against Man Utd and Liverpool.  Tomorrow will be, unless I’m mistaken, his first start against Chelsea.  I’d back him to put them to the sword too.

It’s a huge game.  Massive.  Gigantic.  Enormous.  Gimongous.  Jan Koller-esque.

Let’s go and win it.

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Cesc Fabregas
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