Saturday, December 15, 2007
Wenger: “The signs look very positive in training”. Pendulum turning in Arsenal’s favour
By 1970’s Gooner
Only a week ago it looked as though Arsenal’s injury problems to four of its most important players were going to seriously threaten the chances of victory over Chelsea. A side who have began to find their rhythm again after Mourinho’s sudden departure.
It looked as though Chelsea were about to come into this fixture with Didier Drogba having postponed taking a decision on what to do with his injured knee until at least after the festive season.
His enforced surgery after locking his knee in training however has forced their hand and now their most lethal forward will be missing from the derby.
This is a significant loss as Drogba provides the most important link in a 4 3 3 system that Chelsea usually deploy. He possesses exactly those attributes that can make this system a very potent formation: Strength, aerial ability and goal scoring.
His absence will be a big loss for Chelsea and a big gain for Arsenal. Whatever Wenger says about it.
Grant will have to decide whether he will stick with the 4 3 3 formation or switch to a 4 4 2.
If he decides to play 4 3 3 then either Kalu or Pizzaro will be selected to spearhead it. Shefchenko is not really suited to do that. The problem however is that none of these players is capable of holding the line on their own.
So Chelsea may opt to play a 4 4 2 with any two from the above. However their forward line still looks very lightweight and I would expect that Toure and Gallas will be able to cope against them very well.
Under any scenario you would expect Chelsea’s inspiration to come from their midfield. I do rate Obi Mickel (his football ability not his temperament) but this area of the pitch looks much less strong than if Essien was available.
Frank Lampard usually poses a goal threat with his (often deflected) shots outside the area or from his ghost runs into the box and I would expect Flamini, if he starts, would be detailed to track those runs closely.
The pendulum though can swing even more in Arsenal’s favour with the very encouraging news coming out of London Colney that all three recent absentees, Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb, were back in training again on Friday. And it may turn out that all three may start; plus Van Persie.
Wenger said: "Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb were back in training and I will make a decision on their fitness on Sunday morning.
"I want to leave it as late as possible before making a decision on if they will play. But the signs have looked very positive in training. If Fabregas is fit, he will play."
If, as looks likely, Fabregas and Flamini do play then Arsenal will be a much more complete and balanced outfit on the day.
This is due to the restoration of a strong and creative midfield that was really lacking in the recent away games added to the much more potent strike force now that Van Persie is back in action again. Against Steaua he looked as though he was never away for as long as he was.
Although on recent form Bendtner looked impressive (he was voted as man of the match on this site for the game against Steaua) I would expect Wenger to go with Adebayor who will have benefited having rested for a whole week. He looked very jaded against Middlesbrough.
Prediction: Home win 2-0