Lots to get through today, so let’s get straight on with it. First off, we have team news for tomorrow’s early afternoon match with Boro, and it’s positive – any of Almunia, Adebayor or Djourou could make their returns. With Van Persie out, and Eduardo short of match fitness, the return of the big man up front is important, but perhaps not as crucial as the two at the back.
Fabianski has been in the firing line of late, and is clearly still hurting after his Wembley experience, so it’ll be good to take him out of the limelight and get the calmer Almunia back. The Pole has shown enough to suggest he could be a top class stopper in time, but for now a few games in the reserves won’t hurt. As for Djourou, he hasn’t played all that much this season, but with Silvestre looking wobbly his return is possibly the most important of the trio.
Whether all three play tomorrow is doubtful, Ade especially will probably be wrapped in cotton wool for the Champions League tie on Wednesday night, but we’re so short of numbers in defence that the other two may be forced in.
Speaking of the Boro game, we do have an exceptionally bad record against Gareth Southgate, not winning in five matches against his side, and with their relegation scrap going to the wire, we can’t expect an easy game. Add to the mix the fact that Aliadiere has now almost scored as many goals against us as in eight years at the club, and it becomes a banana skin. That said, they are probably the weakest offensive side in the Premiership, so perhaps it is the perfect time for our threadbare defence to face them.
Elsewhere, as I’m sure you’ve seen, Cesc has been charged by the FA on two counts – one regarding his coming on to the pitch at the end of the Hull game, and one in relation to Phil Brown’s spitting allegations. Brown has himself been charged after comments he made about Mike Riley.
Frankly, I think this has gotten way out of hand. Firstly, let’s address the spitting ‘incident’ – first Brown said that his assistant had ‘told him’ Cesc had spat, and that it had happened at pitchside. An hour later, the story was completely different – not only had Brown now witnessed the event first hand, it had moved to the tunnel where, conveniently, there were no cameras.
Cameras, after all, have not been Brown’s friend, after his accusation that Wenger failed to shake his hand after their two league encounters this season – in both cases pictures and video were released proving this to be a baseless accusation. Brown has seemingly forgotten that he is in the Premiership now – everything is recorded, and such senseless lies are easily exposed.
So how has his word led to an FA charge when there is no evidence to back him up? It seems simply to cater to the media masses, those that cannot accept that no action will be taken. Wenger is confident, however, that nothing will come of it:
“I show you the tape, you watch the tape, you will be surprised he is charged. He will not be banned. Such a big thing has been made of that story that they go further. I know how it works at the FA. I know them for long enough.”
In essence, the FA feel compelled to press on, despite the complete lack of a case against our captain. The good news is that there is actually a video of the tunnel, as Peter Hill-Wood says:
“We have a video of the tunnel which we gave to the FA. I didn’t see it myself but Arsene has and so has Ivan Gazidis, and they both said that the whole thing was innocuous. I think that the whole thing is ridiculous.”
Fairly strong words from our chairman. If the FA try to ban Cesc, they will come under fire, but more worrying is his second charge, for coming on to the pitch in the first place. This smacks of them wanting to ban him for something, but in the knowledge that the spitting charge has no legs. But how can you ban an injured club captain for coming on to the pitch after a game? It isn’t against the rules (and neither were the clothes he was wearing, incidentally), and if they act, expect Wenger to point out how it happens week in, week out, at other clubs.
I can see why the FA feel the need to press on with the spitting claim, as so much has been made of it, but that should eventually be thrown out. The second charge, however, is a very very bad joke.
As for Phil Brown, he should concentrate more on the conduct of his own team, who today had Folan sent off for lashing out at Martin Skrtel. There is an old saying about sorting your own house out that applies quite neatly here.
At least if we lose to Boro tomorrow, Hull will be in the drop zone after the match. Is it tempting?