Its an early preview for the Wigan game on Saturday, given that tomorrow is Good Friday and I'm unlikely to be near a puter. I am always far more tempted to get blogging when I am wasting my employers time, rather than my own.
And the news this Thursday afternoon is rather mixed. The least surprising news is that Rosicky did not play for the reserves after all this week and his comeback is on hold. I don't know exactly what that means but the implication is not good.
Also on the negative side, the injury toll from Tuesday night is now mounting. Gallas is expected to be out for the rest of the season, Almunia will miss 3 weeks and Clichy 2 weeks with a back problem.
I have mixed views on that front. Whilst you obviously don't want to miss anyone at this stage of the season, Djourou is more than competent to replace Gallas and I have no worries on that front - its a great opportunity for the young Swiss that he thoroughly deserves. Fabianski will come in for Almunia and that is also ok, likewise Gibbs for Clichy. Whilst both Fabianski and Gibbs look good prospects, they are going to be thrown right into the deep end next week with something of a warm-up against Wiganm, and then a massive game against Villareal on Wednesday followed bu the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Saturday.
Our defensive unit has looked pretty steady in recent months and losing three of them at once poses several problems in terms of familiarity in what the rest of the back 5 are doing. That said, Clichy is not having his best season and Gallas can be something of a mixed bag as well. So, its tricky. If they do well next week, then thats fantastic, but the changes create a chink in the armour no doubt.
On the positive note, RVP and Eduardo are apparently fit and ready to be included in the Wigan squad, and of course Arshavin is available for that one. I would also expect Bendtner to figure this weekend, possibly from the the off.
In fact, apart from giving our new back 5 a full run-out, I would be tempted to go for some wholescale squad rotation on Saturday, but its very tricky to actually say who will play or where. Cesc, Ade, Theo, Eduardo, Nasri and RVP are recently back from injury and will possibly be struggling to play 3 games a week. The obvious candidates who have had some time on the bench are Bendtner and Eboue, but would Arsene really start El Comrade on the right side of midfield ahead of Nasri or Theo? Somehow, I don't think so.
Now that we have our full artillery of strikers back, its also about time we ditched the 4-5-1 again and got back to playing 4-4-2, which is the only formation I see getting us a result against Chelsea a week on Saturday.
So I predict the team against Wigan as follows:
Sagna Toure Djourou Gibbs
Theo Song Cesc Arshavin
Subs (to play at least 30 mins): Eduardo, Eboue, Nasri.
Its been a long time since we had this much choice, especially given that the above team does not involve any of the kids and would see Denilson and Ade given a full day off. Maybe our squad does actually have some strength in depth after all?