A huge boost in defence ahead of Boro + Arsenal FC Blog Weekly podcast preview

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Johan Djourou's return will be a big boost ahead of UnitedIt’s Friday – and you know what that means? That’s right, it’s almost the weekend and hooray for that. In today’s post I’ve got a preview of the Middlesbrough game, some thoughts on next week’s United clash and some details on the very first Arsenal FC Blog Podcast, which will launch on Monday, to talk about at the end.

I’ll kick things off today with the very positive news that Manuel Almunia, Johan Djourou and Emmanuel Adebayor are all in contention for Middlesbrough on Sunday and will definitely be available for the Champions League first-leg against Manchester United next week. However, it has also been confirmed that Robin van Persie will miss both games while Gael Clichy is likely to be out for a couple more weeks.

With Mikael Silvestre and Lukasz Fabianski struggling badly in the last couple of games, the return of our first-choice goalkeeper and an improved option at centre-back should mean a marked improvement in our defensive performance. Arsene Wenger has indicated that both Almunia and Djourou have returned to full training and I believe he will want to give the pair a decent run-out if he is to call upon them for United on Wednesday. It’s very much a matter of finding the balance between putting the pair in danger of sustaining further injury and getting them match-fit, but I suspect if they completed regular training yesterday then there’s little risk in giving Almunia and Djourou a full 90 minutes.

While it is more doubtful that Adebayor will return at the weekend – he will only return to full training tomorrow – I’d bet my house on him starting against United as long as his recovery remains smooth. He is the key component in the 4-5-1 formation we tend to employ in European away games and his importance, combined with the loss of van Persie, means the manager will want him super-fresh for Wednesday.

Personally I’m not too worried about the loss of van Persie. Adebayor’s return and the inevitable use of the 4-5-1 means he was unlike to play his usual role up front anyway, and in Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott we have three players who can provide the support that our loan striker needs to cause United problems. You have to think the manager will go with those four as well as Alex Song and Denilson to make up his front six, unless Abou Diaby sneaks into the side at the Brazilian’s expense. Personally I’d like to see it happen.

The team that Wenger starts against Middlesbrough could give us big clues as to how he may line up against United. I would suggest that whichever goalkeeper starts will play again on Wednesday, while it would certainly be a smart move to give his strongest available back-four the opportunity to familiarise with each other before the trip to Old Trafford. Bacary Sagna did not look fully recovered from his illness against Liverpool so it might be smart to give him a rest, but I’d like to see Kolo Toure, Kieran Gibbs and Djourou to start if that’s the way the manager will go on Wednesday night.

In midfield it wouldn’t be the worst idea to give Cesc Fabregas a rest – he’s looked a bit flat in the last two games – while Andrey Arshavin will undoubtedly continue after his four-goal haul against Liverpool. I’d suggest that Nicklas Bendtner will start again up top while we might even see the likes of Carlos Vela or Emmanuel Eboue get a start to give Nasri and Walcott a little break. I’ll be interested to see whether Denilson plays too, because he’s looked tired and lethargic lately and if the manager wants him ready for United then he’ll certainly need a rest.

In terms of the result it’s very difficult to predict what kind of match might be. The pressure is certainly off with out league position quite comfortable and the bigger task of United waiting in the wings – and that could either galvanise the fringe-players or see a decreased level of effort and performance. Middlesbrough will be pushing hard for points in a bid to ease their relegation worries but I feel it’s important to keep the squad’s unbeaten run going and maintain momentum going into the first leg of the United tie.

An interesting weekend awaits.

* * *

Podcast Preview – Arsenal FC Blog Weekly

Regular readers of the blog know that I have been planning the podcast for some time, and I am happy to announce that the very first episode of “Arsenal FC Blog Weekly”, the Arsenal FC Blog Podcast will be broadcast on Monday next week (27th of April). You will be able to either stream or download the podcast from my usual Monday post.

Arsenal FC Blog Weekly will be hosted by myself, Spanish Fry, and my brother who goes by the name of Panda Bear on the blog. Each week we will discuss any topics of interest relating to Arsenal, things like match reviews and previews, player focuses and various other thoughts on the world of football. I will also be looking to conduct conference calls where the two of us contact regular readers of the blog and ask them their thoughts on Arsenal.

The aim of the podcast is to foster the already strong community at the Arsenal FC Blog by giving readers more Arsenal-related fun and providing them with the opportunity to participate via interviews or through contributing ideas to the show. It is meant to be a light-hearted but informative weekly review of Arsenal with lots of opinion, discussion and analysis.

In the first episode on Monday we will be discussing the Chelsea, Liverpool and Middlesbrough games as well as providing some thoughts on the upcoming Champions League game against United. There will be no reader interview this week – I’m still coming to grips with the technical aspects of recording three-way interviews – but it promises to be an enjoyable and informative show nonetheless.

Last but not least, as a celebration for what I am hoping to be the first of many podcasts, we will be giving away an Arsenal shirt. Be sure not to miss it.

Anyway, have a lovely weekend and come on the Arsenal!

Have your say on Middlesbrough, Manchester United or the podcast by leaving a comment.


51 thoughts on “A huge boost in defence ahead of Boro + Arsenal FC Blog Weekly podcast preview

  1. really looking forward to the podcast, love the arseblog 1 & it be good to have something bit different, what with the two of ye being able to bounce ideas off each other.

  2. Are we -and Arsene – forgetting Eduardo? Why isn’t he in the equation up front? Since his return back in February he has played two games – and scored 3. A couple of minor injury set backs (groin) since recovering from the major one – surely shouldn’t prevent us from using him now that he is fully recovered? A faster and more skilful striker than anyone else we have up front.

  3. @ Hans

    My thaughts exactly. Everyone forgot about Eduardo. He is fit but he is not playing, i think Wenger wants him fresh for the ManU game.

  4. I always thought 4-4-2 was the ideal formation for ManU. I dont like 4-5-1 b/c it puts Cesc out of position, his best position is in CM, not in “the hole”. So my team for Wednesday would be…


  5. I cant wait to listen to the podcast SF, it really sounds like a great idea. It will be nice listening to your and all the regulars’ views.

  6. yea lookin forward to the podcast. i would like to see eduardo get a bit of a run out against boro.

  7. I don’t know why people are so excited about song pairing with with cesc, song has had good games the fact remains only denilson can pair effectivelly with cesc. Song does not possesse a technical aspect of controlling the midfield as we watched against liverpool he could not stay calm and he was made to run around like a headless chicken he couldn’t break play regulary the way denilson does when he is alone in the Dm position. Be careful what you ask for because you will get shocked how looks can be decieving.

  8. @hans @gibbs Eduardo may be an option for the Premier League games but not CL due to lack of game time. He needs a run out on Sat if he is to figure at all against MU. Would like to see him start vs. Boro though.

  9. What’s up German Fry. I haven’t been on here for a while. How are things?
    I remenber when Gallas was Injured Djourou was starting to build a great partnership with Djourou and people were not happy that he was dropped when Gallas returned. Now we have a chance to see that partnership again and difinetly the Boro game will be a good kick start to work together and be ready for the Manure games.Gibbs has been a wonderful replacement for Clichy so I’m optimistic we can put one over the Mancs.

    Jay- what’s up how are you?

  10. Ezra, you are one confused guy. i dont know what you watch in games. your option for song is to bring in aguy who so removed from the game that when he loses a ball, he does not have the drive to retrieve it. i would rather have a headless chicken that bumps into others and atleast the ball might bounce away than one who is like a statue and gives directionless passes.
    yeah, Song anytime.

  11. You didn’y mention about one important player….Eduardo….

    Couldn’t wait to listen to your very first voice man 😀

  12. Good luck with the Podcast.

    I’d like to see the following against Boro:


    This would leave Ade, Cesc and Walcott fresh. I would sub Nasri for Diaby in the second half, as I think both should play against United.

  13. song now is as good as flamini was last season.
    the main difference is that i dont think song is capabale of playing so many games, which is why wenger wants him to be a CB long-term
    denilson is badly off-form at the moment, and i dont trust him to do the holding job. He’s still a kid, his time will come, bt song is the man right now
    I hope JD is back for boro, his inclusion changes everything for me.
    Also hope dudu starts, might as well play with bendtner, its the right sort of game for them

  14. I agree with you SF that I’d rather see diaby play than Denilson. Firstly, he looks knackered and secondly he’s not DM, despite being made to play there for a lot of the season. That’s the result of us not having replaced Flamini rather than Denilson’s abilities. I disagree with you davi that Song’s as good as Flamini was last season. He’s improved yes, but he doesn’t go box to box throughout the game like Flamini did. Flamini got more shots on goal in as well. It’s a little harsh to call Song a headless chicken but I can see what you mean. He does tear about, but at least he breaks up play which is what a DM is supposed to do. I don’t think we’ve got any choice other than to play 4-5-1 in the away leg against Man U. Very few teams are good enough to take them full on at their own place, and we’re certainly not. We need a focused, disciplined performance at Old Trafford. We need to keep Ronaldo quiet and hope to nick something on the break. We need to avoid conceding, at least in the first half. If we ship a goal early we’ll be in trouble. We can scora against anybody, but we won’t get the space at Old Trafford that Liverpool gave us this week. Utd are far less reckless. If we can come away with a draw or a narrow defeat with an away goal I’d be happy.

  15. Ezra – I don’t know what drugs you are on but where can I get them from? Song has had a string of top quality games recently and put in a decent performance against Liverpool. He is a much better partner for Cesc than Denilson, these two being too similar (except that Denilson always passes to the opposition, whereas Cesc doesn’t).

    I think we should also be very cautious before declaring that 4th place in the EPL is done and dusted. It is not yet and we really need a win against Boro to avoid the pressure coming back on.

  16. when will the podcast be on, i know on monday but what time? I have been worries about the absences of Eduardo and Vela, both talented strikers yet neither have played for ages and Vela hasnt been injured. Would like to see them both v Boro.

  17. Surely,everyone seemed 2b 4getting Eduardo yet he’s a fox in the box!I really hope he’s given an opportunity to start or evn play 90mins and yes,fab should be rested.Arshavin shouldn’t rest,he will have all the time 2 rest on Wed,i can’t stand a game without him now i donno if u guys also feel the same way.We should be able to bang 1 or 2 goals past Boro surely!As for the return of Almunia and Djourou wonderful news!!

  18. slightly confused by the FA charging fab….from the bbc website…
    Even their article states the evidence was all one sided…how can the fa follow through with a charge….unbelievable!

  19. phil cunt rag brown is a fooking twat. hope they go down. how can they charge fabs when all the evidence is from people associated with hull.

  20. Jay-Jay what happened you doubled your name? or am I talking to a different Jay.
    I think Vela will feature against Boro. All thoughts are on Teusday so Wenger might rest few players.

  21. Im agree with all of you EXCEPT Ezra.

    The good partnership is Song-Cesc NOT Denilson-Cesc.

    Denilson plays the exactly same position of Cesc so he cant play with him. I hope he goes on loan for a couple years. Cuz Cesc stop his progress, and he is good.

  22. I think Denilson should be an understudy for Fab. He actually was playing better and better later with Song as Fab was out. I believe he will improve in the future. There was some learing curve during that rut we were in Nov & Dec, but picked it up later.

    In another note, is it possible that the FA can punish Fab without any corroborative evidence from simple accusations? In fact Phil forgot his team is in danger of relegation while he is getting into people noses(as his own claim). He really has an inferiority complex!

  23. looking forward to the podcast, also looking forward to pumping boro tomorrow night! We owe them a good old fashioned beating due to the high amount of draws or sneaky wins they have had against us in recent years! I always remembered boro games being a ‘given’ in that we would usually beat them 4-0 or so and henry or whoever would bag a hat-trick!


  25. Would like to see dudu play with vela but I know thats not going to happen as a run out for the likes of ramsey wouldn’t be to bad either and save some legs for weds. Was waiting for next seasons kit and thinking about dudu’s name but now thinking arsharvin might be a better option what do you think sf?

  26. I would like to experiment playing a central midfield trio of Nasri, Fabregas and Song, with Walcott and Arshavin as out and out wingers. Sounds a bit radical, I know.

    What do others think?

  27. @ Darragh – I like it. I think it would work. Song could sit further back protecting the defence, Fabregas could be a box-to-box midfielder and concentrate mostly on passing while Nasri could push forward and support the front man with quick movement and dribbling. It makes sense.

  28. @ jay-jay – The podcast will come through with my usual Monday post. That means around about 6pm Monday night Australian time, or 9am Monday morning UK time.

  29. @SF, kind of like what Hleb did from time to time when Wenger played him as basically a secondary striker. Or perhaps how Bergkamp was.

    A lot of people talk about Van Persie being the new ‘bergkamp’, but I just don’t see him as that – I find Van Persie does not assist as much.

  30. nowadays, i have come to realise how kolo toure is becoming a liability in some sense. have you seen how he runs back instead such that he leads an attacker from the orger team towards his own goal. i think, the option is for him to defend by attacking.

  31. We are expecting to yield the vital 3 points in the Boro clsh in order to consolidate our stay in the top “4”,thus the return of Djourou and Mannuel “goal minder”gives us alot of confidence about the safety in our defence.Since Chelsea dropped 2 points against Everton we may see ourselves clossing in on them.So go Gunners go.Patrick.

  32. van persie is leading assist, i think he can do the bergkamp role. its wether he can drop back a bit and be patient

  33. @ Le Gunner – I started as Jay but doubled up my name as more people were blogging. Ive been on the blog since the start though, I just know blog as jay-jay

    @ SF – Thanks, ill be listening.

  34. SF-Thanks. Have you saved up for that trip to London? or you’ve been already?

    Jay-I remember you mate.

    What is it with the FA? they are charging Fabregas for walking on the pitch since when it has become punishable to congratulate your team mates? Hull city really behaved like little girls they made so much fuss over nothing. Phil Brown diddn’t like the fact the Arsenal supports booed his players I find that rather comical what is he expecting us to do cheer his players on? unbeleivable.

    Dan-Toure is a good player and I’m so glad he he didn’t go in January otherwise we would’ve been in big trouble he is covering a lot of ground at the moment. How can he attack there is no else to cover for him Silvestre doesn’t have the pace nor the aerial power so he needs a lots of support. He was solid with Campbell and He will rediscover that with Djourou I honestly beleive If Toure and Djourou have a long run of games together they will be the best around. Keep the faith Danny boy.

  35. @LE GUNNER. I just see this as Brown’s tactic to take the heat off how badly his team have done in the second half of the season.

    I feel a bit sorry for Hull. They signed Jimmy Buillard and he broke his leg (or something) within a week of signing! That has got to suck!

  36. Yeah im with u SF, I hope they go down. They were gud at first, but after the whole spitting thing HATE THEM!!

  37. Taking my boys to the boro game to day hope arshavin starts and we give boro a thrashing,manure,s defence against the spuds looked dodgy hope its the same on wed nite….COME ON YOU GUNNERS…

  38. Regardless of who should/shouldn’t go down we should be going out to win today with a decent line-up.

    Would be good to see some of the youngsters get a bit more experience but I really want 3 points for our sake and no one else’s.

    Aside from the fact I’ve got a ton on at 8/15 🙂

  39. WAtching the match. Wenger started with Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin, Walcott and Denilson in mid. Nasri does look a bit tired in general, and is defending a lot. A few nice touches.

    Really impressed with Nasri in his first season – he has done a lot more than a lot of other players have done in their first real season (remember Reyes, Baptista?).

  40. Read AW comments on the boro game. Somehow, i’m kinda relieved to know that silvestre may not be playing the man u game. I seriously hate to see him on the field in arsenal colours again.

  41. A must win against Boro and a steady confidence boost. i don’t mind whether Arsenal win or lose against Man U, it’ll be a good preparation for the next year pre-season.

    How about Nasri, is it just me or he really did shine in the holding role. He was breaking up play more than Denin and had more penetrating passes. Denilson as usual was invinsible and the trademark sideway passing.Seems Wenger would only play Denilson against the non top teams.

    Hope Arsenal do well against Man U, go guns!

  42. @Ianinja I noticed that Nasri did quite alright in that role. I really am a big fan of him, I really like his ability to play wide as well centrally. I think he’s got a great touch.

    Notice how Nasri gets put in that position and suddenly Fabregas gets two good goals – he was was moving a lot with more free reign that he usually is allowed.

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