After the horror of last weekend, it’s nice just to be thinking about a football match again. As ever, best wishes are being sent to Eduardo, but the best thing the rest of the players could do now is win for their stricken teammate.
Over the past couple of weeks a few of the players have been struggling for form, and while league results have been good on the whole, the performances haven’t been the slickest. Tomorrow, I can see that changing.
You will see a more determined and focused Arsenal side than you’ve seen for a while, and they will have the bit between their teeth, because they will want to show a positive reaction to the tackle and to the dropping of points. Villa could be on the wrong end of a backlash.
However, Martin O’Neill is a canny manager, and will be prepared for anything. I have no doubt he’ll look to contain a furious Arsenal, hoping to frustrate the players into losing their focus. It’s a big ask, and I hope it’s a plan that falls flat.
As for team news, Diaby returns, which means he can occupy the left flank while Hleb works his magic on the right. That leaves only one question, who will partner Adebayor up front? Bendtner is the obvious option, but I have to agree with the prediction made over at Gunnerblog, that Walcott will start behind the Togolese powerhouse, perhaps switching with Hleb as and when they see fit. After his brace last weekend, he’ll be itching to get back in the thick of things.
And make no mistake about it, we’ll need some goals from young Theo between now and the end of the season. Adebayor has been carrying the goalscoring burden for a while, hiding the fact that since the turn of the year, goals have once again dried up from midfield, the early season spree from Hleb, Rosicky and Fabregas in particular having vanished. If Adebayor goes through a lean patch (and he’s due one), the likes of Walcott and Bendtner need to step up in Eduardo’s absence.
And then there is one more name to consider – Robin van Persie. Almost a forgotten man having played so little this season, he could be vital in the run in, if kept fresh. While legs tire around him, he could get a couple of partial games under his belt before really making an impact. Many people are predicting that the Milan tie could be his return, but I think that’ll be too early. It would be a mistake to rush him back when his return could swing the title balance back our way.
Let’s make March a good month.