Saturday 19 December 2009

Hull preview - Damage Limitation?

On paper, Arsenal should slip quite easily past Hull this afternoon. Its a home game, at fortress Emirates, in front of a passionate crowd of over 60,000 fervent Gooner fanatics. Plus Hull have had a pretty torrid calender year for 2009, they have not won away from home this season, Bullard is injured. So the odds would suggest an easy home win.

But it just isn't like that in the Premiership. Last weekend saw a series of records being broken - Andy Gray waffled on that Liverpool always win at Anfield when they score first. They didn't. Someone else chuntered inanely (probably Andy Gray again) that Aston Villa always lost at Old Trafford, that Martin O'Neil had a terrible record against Fergie etc etc. But nevertheless, undaunted by the stats, Villa won. Similar things could be said about Everton's draw at Stamford Bridge, or Spurs thrashing Citeh 3-0.

In my opinion, this is already proving to be one of the most unpredictable Premiership campaigns for years. Probably not since the debt-fuelled days of the Leeds and Newcastle sides of 10 years ago are there so many teams who "on their day can beat anyone".

Plus when you look at the expected line-up for today's game, it reads like some sort of pre-season experiment. Its frankly a miracle that Arsenal can still manage to put out a decent XI with an injury list that includes Fabregas, RVP, Rosicky, Clichy, Bendnter, Gibbs, Djourou and Traore. Plus Eboue, Theo, Diaby, Denilson, Vela and Eduardo have also all had recent injuries. Only Arshavin seems to be made of the strong stuff.

I also don't think all of the above players actually are 'injured'. Recent press articles about Theo's comeback suggest that Arsene allows the player to have a big part in the decision whether to play or not. And more often that not, it seems the player says 'my nail hurts a bit - maybe next week boss'. Andrey is a Russian Terminator in comparison.

So when you consider that our 4th choice left back will be playing this afternoon, that Eduardo and Vela are so short of confidence that they can't even get in the side at the moment (despite the injury crisis), that Theo and Nasri look like they are going to take some time to come back into match fitness, that we have absolutely no idea what Diaby will do today, then I begin to think that any result that gets us 3 points today would be a fine achievement.

Its therefore no surprise that Wenger has gone into rant mode. It smacks of a classic deflection technique, since the press don't seem to be that bothered about us at the moment - they have Rafa and Hughes to fry. Arsenal have been disappointingly good this season for the press to focus their "Christmas crisis" campaign at us this year.

But Arsenal only need 2 bad results, probably only draws, and we could be down to 6th in the table. The game against Villa at the Emirates on 27 December is already looking very ominous.

So, until we get something approaching a first XI back into action, we just need to hang in there. So long as we are in distance of the leaders by the time it comes to the sprint finish, then we will have a chance. Because just as many other teams in the league, on our day, Arsenal can beat anyone.

1 comment:

Rhinogooner said...

I agree with your post Ted. I just want to add that, in addition to Arshavin, Gallas and Vermaelen have been dependable this season.

Vermaelen seems to be playing with an injury, as I see his wrist wrapped every match. Since the beginning of the season, we've been concerned about what would happen if we had an injury at CB, since we have no decent cover there. Thankfully we haven't had to find out yet. Perhaps, I do Song a disservice. He does seem to have a bit of hardness about him as well.

I do suspect most of the other players do not possess the intestinal fortitude to push through the pain barrier a bit because they want to play, and to win, for Arsenal. Not like our players from yesteryear.