Friday, March 14, 2008
Liverpool trilogy dictates squad rotation by Wenger
By 1970’s Gooner
Arsenal play Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League Quarter Final at the Emirates on Wednesday 2nd April but the run in to this game is not littered with easy Premiership games.
All games in the Premier League are quite significant from now on as we enter the final 10 games of the season. “Squeaky bum time” as some other manager has called it.
After Middlesbrough at the Emirates on Saturday we have to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and then go North to face one of our bogey teams Bolton Wanderers. Then the Liverpool trilogy will begin.
It’s quite a hard schedule really and one that will inevitably tire minds and bodies, putting Wenger’s squad to test.
One has only to recollect how tired and lackluster were most of the Arsenal players at Wigan, a game considered very winnable but happened to be right after the triumphant performance at the San Siro.
So what Arsene Wenger has to decide really is whether he should prioritise between the two major competitions.
Does he want the Premier league more than the Champions League? If he wants both can the squad last the distance? Can he play his first choice eleven for every game without jeopardizing the team’s chances of winning anything in the end?
Arsene has a few blessings in disguise though. Some of the first team players like Rosicky, Diaby, Eboue and Toure that may feature in the three games against Liverpool have been out with injury and suspension and another, Robin Van Persie, is only now returning from injury.
This means that these players will have had a restful period away from the pressures of playing games continuously and they will be getting into their stride by the time we come to face Liverpool, especially Van Persie.
But the same does not hold for the ever regulars of the Arsenal line up like Fabregas, Flamini, Gallas, Sagna, Clichy, Hleb and Adebayor. Arsene Wenger will want to see how their fitness levels fare during the league games coming up but he may consider resting some of them.
Nicklas Bendtner could come in for Adebayor to play alongside RVP for example and Diaby could replace Hleb or even Flamini in the middle. Hoyte could fill in for Sagna or even Clichy. It will not be a Carling Cup side but there again it will not be Wenger’s first choice eleven.
In other words we may not see a full strength line up for both CL games against Liverpool. Especially since these CL games are preceded or followed by some very important league games:
3 days before the first leg against Liverpool: Bolton away
3 days before the home league game against Liverpool: Liverpool home
4 days before away league game at Manchester United: Liverpool away in the CL
And although I would want to win both competitions, I would give priority to the Premier league, if I had to.