Archive for September 22nd, 2012

City Preview, Wilshere’s return, & Theo thoughts

712 comments September 22nd, 2012

Everyone in the media seems to view this game as the true barometer of Arsenal’s potential.  Yes, they’ve been impressive thus far, but we can only really gauge their prospects after this game against City.  There’s an element of truth in that: City will be by far the strongest side we’ve faced this season, and the way we equip ourselves against them will determine our capacity to compete at the very top.

However, I do think a caveat is required.  Just as our results thus far don’t necessarily make us contenders, nor would defeat on Sunday render us useless.  It’s still very early: Sunday’s result will be indicative, but not definitive.

That said, I think Arsenal should approach this game with confidence.  We are in a good run, unbeaten this season, and appear to be a little more solid defensively than in previous seasons.  City are a very good side, but come in to the game on the back of a draw with Stoke and last-gasp defeat in the Bernabeu.  Their confidence may not be what it was just a week ago.

I expect Arsene to name the same side that faced Montpellier.  Whilst Olivier Giroud may not be in the best of form, he adds to our physical presence against a very powerful Manchester City side.  His ability to defend at set pieces may also come in handy.

If you want to hear some more of my thoughts on City, and indeed the win over Montpellier in midweek, why not listen to the latest episode of the Arsenal America podcast?  No, seriously: why not?

In other news, you’ll all know by now that Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong are now both back in full training.  Whilst Frimpong could be in contention relatively soon, Wilshere is still a good few weeks away, but I have to say that just seeing him able to rejoin training after 14 months made me feel a little emotional.  For a player who loves the game as much as Jack, being away from the pitch will have been agony.  Arsene has preached caution, but at the same time has said “it is certain” that he will return to the levels he showed before his injury.  A mouthwatering prospect.

Another Engishman, Theo Walcott is expected to be left on the bench against City once again.  When he sat down with the print media yesterday, Arsene was asked directly whether or not the winger’s precarious contract situation has a bearing on team selection.  He responded:

“I haven’t picked him, it’s true, and it’s quite a good question. I still hope to sign him and the next two months will be vital because, after that, the longer this situation lasts the more difficult it is.

Let’s hope we can find a solution in the next two months but the fact he doesn’t play regularly at the moment is right, but it’s not necessarily linked with his contract situation.”

Our friend over on arseblog says Theo’s agent and the club are further away from an agreement than ever, and that’s easy to believe.  Prior to the closing of the transfer window, the club made it clear that they would be willing to increase Theo’s wage to £75k p/week – an offer that the player refused, despite a tentative ‘sign or be sold’ ultimatum.  Having seen Arsenal buckle and allow Walcott to stay, his agents aren’t likely to back down anytime soon.

The timeline Arsene is drawing up leads ominously to January.  If a new deal hasn’t been finalised by then, surely Walcott will be encouraged to leave early for a knock-down fee of £5m or so.  In the meantime, his situation has seen him fall behind the developing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a rejuvenated Gervinho in the pecking order.  Until some resolution is found regarding his long-term future, I do not expect that to change.

Walcott could get a rare start in next Wednesday’s league cup tie with Coventry, which would be as good an indicator as any of his fall from grace.  Until then, all eyes are on the Etihad.

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Cesc Fabregas
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