The talking point going into tonight’s game with Stoke are injuries to Robin “157 goals in 5 games” van Persie and Laurent “I win every tackle I attempt” Koscielny.
Their exclusion leaves Arsene Wenger with a couple of interesting changes to make. Sebastien Squillaci will undoubtedly continue alongside the returning Johan Djourou, while one of Marouane Chamakh or Nicklas Bendtner will start in place of van Persie.
My gut feeling is that the manager will go for Chamakh in a bid to play him back into form ala Andrey Arshavin. But personally I think it is too important a game to take any chances and my choice would be Supernick, who was the sharper (and more of focused) of the two against Leyton Orient on Sunday.
Whichever of the pair starts, their height and physical presence will come in handy against Stoke. We all know the sexy goals they like to score and baring that in mind, Bendtner or Chamakh’s presence in the defensive third as much as the attacking one.
The rest of the team virtually picks itself. All the big guns will return: Fabregas, Wilshere, Nasri and Walcott amongst them and the only real dilemma for the manager is choosing between Bacary Sagna or Emmanuel Eboue at right-back. Alex Song should be rested after backing up on Sunday and I expect Denilson to complete the midfield triangle.
With Manchester United in France on Champions League duty tonight’s game offers our boys a welcome opportunity to close the gap at the top. In contrast, with the Carling Cup final on Sunday anything short of three points tonight could see United extend their lead by the end of the weekend.
It’s an important game but with the return of our first-team players it is one I expect us to win.