A much finer morning than yesterday and with only 24 hours away from the big kick off, the anticipation is kicking in. It is all very exciting despite the black cloud that is hanging over our preparations. We still haven't found that creative player we all think we need but the other black cloud is finally leaving. It seems that Nasri's transfer should be completed today.
Whilst this leaves us another player down and we can argue the mismanagement of the situation all day, one thing is clear, it is one less thing to worry about and ideally you'd hope we all just move on quickly. £25m is a hell of lot of money for someone in the last year of their contract, which is a great piece of business. The extra income on this transfer in some ways makes up for the Cesc deal, even if it is very slightly.
That leaves us with 11 days until the end of the transfer window to find replacements and improve the squad. 11 days and a shit load of money. There is literally not a player we couldn't sign at the moment if it wasn't for our ridiculous wage structure. I think it is safe to say we are only likely to see one player come in for the two major departures. I hope I am wrong but it seems as though it will only be the one and Aaron Ramsey will be asked to step up. Some have argued that nobody will come in as Gervinho has essentially replaced Nasri and Ramsey is set to replace Cesc. I have a little more faith in Le Professor and expect another player will come in and knowing Wenger, it will probably be someone we haven't heard of or someone who has had one breakthrough season in Ligue 1. For me then the front runner has to be Marvin Martin but like I said, this is Wenger so we will never know until the deal has been done.
This takes us to the transfer news and apart from the aforementioned Nasri transfer there isn't a huge deal to report on. Apparently we are close to signing Lazio's Zarate according to Corriere dello Sport. This essentially says that Zarate’s agent and his brother Sergio are in London to discuss a possible switch. He has been mentioned by a few people but I cannot imagine there is much truth in this but that could just be because anything mentioned in the media rarely comes to fruition. Apparently we are waiting until late in the transfer window to make a bid for Cahill to force Bolton's hand. This is according to the Mirror so is probably not true and to be honest I am bored of hearing his name so will not indulge in further comments.
We have updates on the injuries of a number of our players and the news is mostly bad. Kieran Gibbs will be out for 10-12 days ruling him out of some key matches. This is injury gives us a real selection dilemma. Do we go for Jenkinson, Traore who has his own injury concerns or do we shift out Vermaelan to the left and bring in Djorou who may be fit in time. I would not like to see Vermaelan out there as he and Koscienly are forming a good partnership and with Sczeczny behind them, they look pretty good at the moment. This means we are probably looking at Carl Jenkinson to play at left back. Not ideal for these big games but ideally we need to keep our central pairing the same. Wilshire is definitely out but apparently he may have a chance for United. It is rated at 50-50 at the moment, with our medical team that’ll go down to a 0% chance of him playing so again not great news. Rosicky seems unlikely to play which takes our squad from thin to bulimic. We are looking at Frimpong, Ramsey and a mystery man. This highlights the need for investment. We are looking at crucial games coming up with only two fit central midfielders. This could mean a chance for Lansbury or Chamberlain depending on where Arshavin plays. It is a scary thought and is going to be a big decision for Wenger to make.
Expected starting XI: Sceczny, Sagna, Vermaelan, Koscienly, Jenkinson(First start)?, Ramsey, Frimpong (First start), Arshavin?!?!, Walcott, Chamberlain (Debut/First start), Van Persie.
So as you can see we are looking at 3 different players who have never started at this level. Not the stuff dreams are made of. Can we still beat them, yes of course we can. Is it likely? To be honest I am not overly confident but I wouldn’t be surprised if we won. It is the chance for many to step up and prove their worth and I wish them the best of luck. One thing is clear though; this will be a stern test for the side and will certainly be an indication of where we are as a team.
It is interesting to see, however that Rio Ferdinand was expected to be out for 10 weeks yet he is only going to spend a week or two on the sidelines. If we want to make a real statement of intent how about nicking the United medical team?! Perhaps they can lift the curse of Arsenal Football Club and the long list of injuries that have hindered each and every campaign in the past four years.
I had a lot of responses to the Thierry Henry goals I posted and some people were surprised he scored so many against "top opposition". He was unfairly branded a player who didn't perform on the big stage. So without further ado here is a list of how many goals he scored against top opposition. I have included the Champions League Elite as one, this includes, Juventus, Inter, Real Madrid and Bayern. I have also done a Champions League second tier including, Roma, Valencia, Porto, Lyon and PSV.
Man United - 9 goals - 8EPL - 1CS
Chelsea - 10 goals - 8EPL - 2FAC
Liverpool - 9 goals - 8EPL - 1FAC
Champions League Tier 1 - 7 goals
Champions League Tier 2 - 10 goals
All of which are very healthy in the big matches. Of course looking at this doesn't tell the whole story, not by a long shot. There is only so much stats like these can do. One thing is clear though, it does give an indication of his record in big matches and looking at this it is hard to argue he was every bit as effective in these matches as he was in others.
I shall try and post tomorrow before the match but will be heading up quite early so it may be a late post tomorrow. See some of you at the game.