Archive for October 19th, 2010

Shakhtar XI: Why risk Cesc? We’ve got Jack.

6 comments October 19th, 2010

Let’s start with the big news: the captain is back.  Arsene Wenger said in yesterday’s press conference:

“Cesc is available.  He is good and has prepared well.

He had a little setback but got over the hurdle and is ready to play at full fitness.

I do not know yet whether I start him or not but he is available. It will be [determined by] whether I take a gamble or not, because he has been out for a long time.”

Immediately my reaction is to say: why gamble?  It isn’t necessary.  We’re not desperate for Champions League points, and in Jack Wilshere we have a player in good form, perfectly capable of fulfilling the playmaking role.

Cesc’s halting start to the season has seen him begin only four games.  We need to ease him back in, and that means he should start on the bench tonight.  Half an hour against Shakhtar will be good preparation for Sunday’s clash with Man City, where he will be more urgently needed.

Taking that in to consideration, this would be my XI for tonight’s game:

Injuries to Vermaelen, Koscielny and Sagna leave little opportunity for rotation in the back-four, but I would give Kieran Gibbs another chance to impress at left-back.  In midfield, I’d give Wilshere the muscular support of Diaby and Song, though it’s equally possible one of those could drop out in favour of Denilson.

No outfield player has played more games than Andrey Arshavin, and judging by his performance on Saturday, it’s starting to tell.  He could do with a rest, so Tomas Rosicky will probably come in to take up the Russian’s role on he left-flank.  Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott are both in the squad, but I’d be amazed if either was entrusted with a starting spot, either tonight or on Sunday.

Of course, much of the focus tonight will be on the return of Eduardo.  The man himself has been quick to say he won’t celebrate a goal tonight.  Personally, I hope that will be because he doesn’t score.  I’ve got a lot of time for him, both as a player and a man, but I’d rather we kept a clean sheet than sentimentally hope he scores.

One man who won’t be involved tonight is Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who banged in a hatrick in a Reserves League game against West Ham this afternoon.  Perhaps he’ll get his chance in next week’s Carling Cup tie at Newcastle.

Another youngster, Vito Mannone, has been sent to Hull on loan until January.  One can only assume Arsene has chosen Hull as punishment for Mannone’s outburst a few weeks back.

Right, tonight is my first trip to the Emirates in too long.  Work has kept me unreasonably busy, and despite the rain, I can’t wait to head out.  Come On You Gunners.

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