Apr 182009

Wembley is upon us, Arsenal’s first appearance at the famous stadium this century, and team news is dominating the previews with any number of our defence missing for the big game.

It is something of an irony that just as the attacking threat is invigorated by the return of Cesc, Adebayor, Walcott and the arrival of Arshavin, six injuries in three games at the other end leaves us down to the barest of bones.

And the news on a couple of them is somewhat concerning. Sagna has a virus that may take some recovering from, as Wenger says:

“He came to the training ground but he feels very weak and he lost some weight. He’s not right. It is a virus, we don’t know really what kind of virus it is but it’s weakening him.”

Out of the semi final, it seems unlikely that he’ll return in three days so he’ll probably miss the Liverpool game too. On the other flank, Clichy will also be absent for a while – he is ‘in the middle of a period of rest, before rehab’, which also suggests a couple of weeks. Something tells me he won’t be risked before the Champions League gets underway again in eleven days.

With Gallas and Djourou also out, that leaves us sweating on the fitness of Gibbs, who if he makes it will remain at left back, Eboue on the right, with Toure and Silvestre central. If he doesn’t, Song will drop back and Silvestre will move to left back.

That isn’t ideal by any means, mainly because Song has been outstanding in recent weeks, and would be ideal to shackle Lampard in the centre of Chelsea’s midfield. They’ve got plenty of strength coming forward there, and we need an in form shield. The news on Gibbs is pretty good though, and I’m hearing that he’s likely to make it, so fingers crossed.

That would mean an almost identical line up to Wednesday night, with the exception of Arshavin, who will come in for one of the attacking options, probably Nasri rather than Walcott. Alternatively, the pacey Englishman could be used as an impact sub, with Nasri starting on the left and Arshavin on the right.

Whatever the team, it should be a cracking game, for the simple reason that we’re down to our reserves at the back but looking as dangerous as we ever have going forward. Attack is surely the best form of defence today, especially as an in form Drogba will get chances at some point, and we all know his record against us.

I agree with ‘holic today, I can see this one going to extra time, perhaps even after a 2-2 draw, and I’m hoping a pace injection from the bench (Walcott, Eduardo, Vela…) could nick it. So the ‘holic pound has gone on an extra time win, and so has mine, 10/1 at Sportingbet. I was tempted to back my 2-2 theory at 16/1, but I haven’t, so hopefully I won’t be regretting that later.

Incidentally, I’ve put my Sunday pound on Everton getting through tomorrow – there’s good odds on that, they’re in form, and didn’t play during a week in which United had a tough trip to Porto. I have a sneaking suspicion to quintuple dream ends this weekend.

But today is what counts, and for those going to Wembley, have a fantastic day out – it has been nearly ten years since our last visit so make the most of it. I couldn’t make it today but I will be watching and Twittering during the game, so click on the link to the right if you want to follow me there.

Bring it on.

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