By 1970’s Gooner
When Walcott was fit Arsenal had at least one out and out traditional winger as opposed to what today is termed a wide midfielder.
This is very important as any team that wants to play expansive rather than defensive football needs at least an outlet on the wide areas of the pitch so as to stretch play and draw defensive formations out.
It is also very important for quick counterattacks.
For as the opponents commit players forward especially on those occasions they believe they have a chance of scoring (eg from set pieces) it is imperative that Arsenal have the outlet to counter attack at speed before the defenders get back.
The other side of the pitch this season has been patrolled by Nasri who is not a winger in the Walcott mould but tends to come infield and join in playmaking like Hleb used to.
The width on this side of the pitch is provided more by the left back Clichy rather than Diaby or Denilson or whoever has been chosen to play there when Nasri has not been fit.
The problem with today’s game is that with Nasri unavailable it leaves Arsene Wenger with a decision to make.
Does he go for the more seasoned players for these two positions, like Denilson and Diaby (I hope he does not start with Eboue- he still looked unfit at Porto) or does he go for players that can provide real width like Vela and Van Persie.
In the first case Diaby and Denilson are more likely to help out in the midfield areas and defensive situations something which Van Persie and Vela may not be that prone or used to do.
Added to this is the fact that Middlesborough have their absentees in defense.
David Wheater is suspended and this would force Huth back into action. It is how he deals with the threat of Adebayor that will go a long way in determining how well Arsenal will do in attack, especially as there is not a big chance that Wenger will go for real wingers on the wide areas for Arsenal.
News coming from The Riverside also suggests that Taylor and old boy Justin Hoyte will miss the game. This may force Southgate into pitching three fresh faces into the backline.
Pogatetz will probably move to left back and Riggott will form the central pairing with Huth. Tony McMahon will likely get the nod at right-back.
Southgate will also be missing Mido and O’Neil and the likely starters up font will be the dangerous Tuncay and Alves with old boy Jeremie Aliadiere (who scored at the Emirates last season) and Downing on the wings.
It is vital that the Arsenal players play this game with the right frame of mind unlike their counterparts at Porto.
The win at Chelsea and the three points against Wigan must be followed by another victory to settle the players in a winning frame of mind and create an environment of consistency.
The key ingredient that is obviously missing.
Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy
Diaby, Fabregas, Song, Denilson
Adebayor, Robin Van Persie
McMahon, Pogatetz, Huth, Riggott
Aliadiere, Digard, Arca, Downing
Prediction: Away win