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.

Interviews with Theo Walcott and the Arshavins

There are several interesting interviews in the press at the moment, Theo Walcott talks to both the Mail and the Guardian. In addition both Andrey Arshavin and Yulia Arshavin have been giving their impressions on settling in London, as well as Andrey’s relationship with Guus Hiddink.

In the Walcott interview with Daily Mail they go into a lot of detail. Firstly how Theo took Henry’s number 14 shirt without realising it – Nasri had already taken the number 8, and he wanted a lower number:

“I asked Vic what the options were. And he said I could have 23, 19 or 14. Without thinking I said I’d take the 14, because it was the lowest.”

How much he respected Thierry:

“Thierry was great with me and my family. He’d offer me advice, take an interest, but he’d also speak to my dad a lot as well. He was a real captain in that way, giving his time to the young lads coming through.”

The shoulder problem:

“The problem with my shoulders was something I inherited from my dad,’ he says. ‘The left one would pop out and then pop back in — absolute agony — during almost every game last season, so I had surgery to put it right last summer.”

“But in Berlin Scott Parker gave me a bit of a nudge, I slipped on the wet ground and the right one went. It popped out and popped back in like the left one always did. So I kept going. We were playing Germany the next day and I wanted to be involved.”

“Then, though, I went up for this ball and when I was spinning in the air the shoulder dislocated again. And this time it stayed out. The pain was unbelievable.”

He is now stronger and faster than ever – and his goal against Wigan should bring back some shooting confidence which Theo lacks at times.

Theo also gave an interview to the Guardian, where he comments on what it was like coming to Arsenal and his run at Anfield in the Champions League last year.

Andrey Arshavin was interviewed by the Telegraph. He talked about the upcoming games against Chelsea and his relationship with their manager Guus Hiddink:

“Hiddink gave me a lot in my life, not just in my football life,”

“If he had not taken over the Russian team I would not be here in England. He made us all believe we were strong, he gave us so much. I respect him and I wish him good luck – except in two games, the FA Cup and in the championship.”

This shows the professional side to Arshavin, he respects Hiddink – but when we play Chelsea his only ambition is to win, and I believe him.

On settling in England:

“Now I’m in a hotel. Next week I will move. I have to settle. Everything is difficult. For example, to get an agreement to rent a house. Everybody is speaking and telling me things but afterwards, when I see it on paper, it is not what I heard.

“I think the quality of life, especially for people with money, is better in Russia than here. Here there are lots of rules and laws. In Russia, if you have money, you can break the law.” 

“I’m happy to be here in English football – it is the best league in the world, I am happy with my professional life but I am unhappy in everyday life, it is very difficult for me. I don’t understand why people do things, or say things, it is a little bit strange. I am alone for the first time in my life, I never left St Petersburg before.”

We also hear Yulia Arshavin’s views on settling in England. Including denial of the negative comments she allegdly made about London:

“To get started, I actually did not speak anything bad about London. Moreover I liked the city especially after the Russian-speaking tour guide took us round”

She likes the match-day hospitality at Ashburton Grove and she enjoys the atmosphere:

“When Andrey takes the ball the whole stadium is already buzzing. There is a simultaneous cry and you feel a total emotional wave”

So the Arshavins are happy at Arsenal, although England is obviously a bit strange for them – they have always lived in St. Petersburg. I’m sure that they will be more settled. As long as Arshavin keeps playing the way he is at the moment I’m sure he will stay happy!