Arsenal – Chelsea: FA Cup semi at the new Wembley

Injuries have defined Arsenal’s season, today’s game at Wembley sees us with a defensive line-up which is scraping the bottom of the barrel. The likely players are Silvestre, Song, Toure, Eboue, with Fabianski in goal. This in itself isn’t awful – all are good defenders – and Silvestre, Toure and Eboue have a combined wealth of experience. Sagna may recover for the game – but at the time of writing he is still ill, while Gibbs hurt his hamstring against Villarreal, in any case the back line will not be full strength.

The problem for me is that this season none of the above are first choice, excepting Toure (and even he has been dropped at times this season). Instability in selection breeds problems and the biggest challenge we face against Chelsea is going to be at the back.

Arsenal Chelsea Carling Cup Final 2007: Image courtesy of Free-ers

I am quietly confident about the game though, Chelsea have been leaking goals recently – in their last 2 games they have conceded 7 – and we are scoring freely at the moment with Arshavin, Walcott, Van Persie and Adebayor all in form. We can outplay them if we fight like we showed against Villarreal.

If, however, Arsenal don’t impose themselves on the game we may see another performance like the first half at Wigan. We need score and take the game to Chelsea.

Personally this will be my first visit to the new Wembley and it will be exciting to see Arsenal play in a national stadium again. Wenger has his concerns about the quality of the playing surface, it is rumoured that it isn’t up to scratch – but at least we are playing first – Man Utd face Everton on Sunday at Wembley giving the pitch just 24 hrs to recover.

To be a successful club you have to beat the best, I’m desparate to see Arsenal prove themselves this season. So much criticism has been levelled at Arsene Wenger and the players, a trophy is the only way to show that we are still a force, winning this game will take us a step closer to that end.

Under Guus Hiddink Chelsea have transformed and they will be threatening – I’m worried about Lampard’s goals from midfield – we are going to have to be on top form to get the right result.

Diaby is latest to mention the title as Arsenal prepare to host West Ham

This is a guest post by sports writer Thomas Rooney

Arsenal’s players and management team seem to be taking it in turns to promote the team’s title chances this season. They may well sit eight points off top spot, but they seem determined to let everyone know that they are not giving up hope.

The latest to have his say on proceedings is Abou Diaby. The midfielder appears to be very defiant as he insists that he and his team-mates will ‘not let up until the end of the season’. This means that they will do all they can to ‘get points in every game’, so that if the top teams do suffer a dip in form – Arsenal are ready to pounce.

It seems that the general consensus was that the point achieved at Everton in midweek was not enough for the Gunners, even though they only just managed this thanks to a late Robin van Persie strike.

Diaby sees this differently though and has claimed that it was ‘very important’ to get a point at Goodison Park. He also believes that considering the way Arsenal played that night, a draw was ‘good for us’. Overall, he admits that Everton were the better team.

As for the man who rescued a point for Arsenal on Tuesday night, Diaby has nothing but praise for his Dutch team-mate. He says that van Persie – who has now netted 13 times this season – has an ‘unbelievable first touch’ and that his presence in the team makes a ‘big difference’.

Diaby himself has been involved in the last few games and will be hoping to keep this run going for the rest of the season. The Frenchman is beginning to establish himself in the team and looks set to eclipse the amount of appearances he made in the last campaign before long. There is no doubt that he will want to have a big say on how Arsenal fair in the final 15 games of the season.

The 22-year-old will almost certainly be involved this weekend as Arsenal face West Ham at the Emirates. It will be the first of two successive Premier League London derbies for the Gunners as they face Tottenham at White Hart Lane next weekend.

As much as the fans may be looking towards the Spurs game though, the team must remain focused for this clash against Gianfranco Zola’s men. They have been very impressive of late and find themselves third in the form table.

Their performance against Hull on Tuesday night was a very assured one and they definitely have enough attacking talent to cause Arsenal’s defence some problems. The in-form Carlton Cole, David Di Michele and Mark Noble are the ones to watch.

It is also worth pointing out that this fixture sees the battle of the undefeated as Arsenal haven’t lost in nine games and West Ham haven’t tasted defeat in seven matches. It should make for an entertaining game of football.

As far as team news is concerned, well Arsene Wenger is going to have to do without Mikael Silvestre who has suffered an injury set back and will be missing for at least two or three weeks. Other than that, there appear to be no fresh injury worries.

In fact, the team may well be the same as the one that started at Goodison Park as Arsenal look to claim a valuable win that would see them progress over the 950 points mark for the Premier League.

By Thomas Rooney

A point saved I believe.

Well. What a poor performance from Arsenal today. We really struggled to break through Everton’s tight defence and I reckon we spent most of the second half putting long balls over the top…Going nowhere.

Cahill made it 1-0 to Everton and to behonest I thought that was the end of the game. They were defending so well.

I’m sure that’s how everyone was feeling until in the 93rd minute up pops RVP and slots a great goal home to make it 1-1.

Most definitely a point saved, playing the way we were I think that’s a good result really.

Arsenal 3 – 1 Everton watch the highlights here!

Just a quick one:

A great result yesterday, poor at the start, but we came back welll in the second half. Song played much better at CB than at RB, also Silvestre did well. Walcott and Nasri add pace and flair on the wings. Ade looked a bit lazy, but we got the goals from Nasri, RVP and Walcott, we just need to lose the complacency!

Hibbert was an idiot – dirty tackle on Denilson, and then he tried to strangle Clichy and got a yellow – the refereeing yesterday was pretty atrocious at times.

Here’s the highlights

Cheers!

Robin Van Persie, Djourou and Gallas injury update

Robin Van Persie is hopefully now off our injury list. He injured himself during training for Holland ahead of Saturday’s 2-0 win over Iceland, apparently it was his hamstring again.

Now RVP has declared himself fit for the game on Wednesday against Norway. This is good news, it was the same international break last year where he got injured and was out for most of the season.

He has been on form this season, I hope he doesn’t play against Norway though, it will only tire him out and give him more chance of another injury, ideally as a Gooner I’d like to see him only play for Arsenal!

Anyway that’s some good news. Gallas is probably out for Saturday’s game against Everton, as is Djourou, so SIlvestre is highly likely to play, which is great. The press are trying to cast doom and gloom over the matter, but the defence, especially Gallas, haven’t been performing brilliantly so a change could work wonders. It would be nice to see how Silvestre does.

What do you think? Should Silvestre start?

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Flamini, Adebayor’s Agent and Potential Transfer Targets

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We haven’t heard anything official about Flamini, but if he hasn’t signed by now he is as good as gone. There are unsupported rumours from the Corriere Dello Sport that he has told the team he has chosen Milan. Who knows?

GilbertoSilver thinks that we might have a perfect replacement for Flamini in Kolo Toure. Arguably our most versatile player, I saw huim play up front in his early days! I think he could do a job for us there, it would be convienent because his partnership with Gallas seems a little shaky at times.

I would quite like to see Michael Johnson, the England Under-21 midfield player signed up. We have been linked to him as well as Gareth Barry to replace Flamini. Man Citeh are in turmoil at the moment as their owner, Thaksin Sinawatra has decided to sack Sven, because he didn’t do well enough this year (wait, we are talking about City here right??), a valuble lesson against outright foreign ownership.

Anyway it seems Flamini may start against Everton on Sunday, no matter what his status is.

Adebayor’s agent has also been worrying Wenger by fueling transfer speculation about Ade:

“Today he is happy at Arsenal, he showed it on Monday. But you know football, everything goes very quickly.”

Just money grabbing in my opinion, there’s no reason Ade would leave Arsenal, so don’t listen.

Also, Van Persie is going to miss the Everton game:

“We don’t want to gamble at this stage of the season on a muscular problem. We had a little alert but it is not big at all.”

Fair enough, RVP has struggled badly with injuries these last few years. Maybe a rest will help him recover, I hope Holland get knocked out of Euro 2008 early!!