Jan 232010

Being a good manager is about getting the tough decisions right. Wenger is stuck in an impossible situation right now – whatever team he fields against Stoke tomorrow, he opens himself up to massive criticism. Play at full strength, and injuries could scupper our chances in an incredibly tough league run. We might lose anyway, or be forced into a replay with the players even more exhausted.

On the flip side, he could send the kids, get knocked out, and face a hammering for ‘disrespecting’ the competition. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

The choice becomes clearer when you look at the players available. Our current first XI is Almunia-Clichy-Vermaelen-Gallas-Sagna-Denilson-Cesc-Rosicky-Eduardo-Arshavin-Walcott(the latter coming in for the newly injured Diaby).

With an unavailability list now stretching to Senderos (now on loan to Everton), Djourou, Gibbs, Diaby, Nasri, Ramsey, Song, Eboue, Merida, Van Persie and Bendtner, that leaves a fairly weak backup lineup of:


I can’t even name a full team of players who have the slightest top flight experience, and in reality, how many of those would you trust in any of the four huge league games we’ve got in store? With our inability to complete a match without a new injury, fielding a full team against Stoke runs the risk of forcing one or more of them in.

We have more injuries that anyone in the Premiership right now, and we simply don’t have the resources to cope with three competitions. With the Champions League on the horizon, we have to take that risk this weekend. You never know, the kids might even surprise us once again.

It is tough to pick a decent bet with the bookies still heavily favouring us for tomorrow’s game. But I’m going for a 2-1 win, and a vindication of team selection.

Elsewhere, Wenger was in fighting mood in yesterday’s press conference, calling the media out on their selective focus, something I was talking about earlier in the week. His timing is perfect – even neutrals cannot fail to see the hypocrisy of the outrage over Gallas’ challenge in a week in which Bolton did their best to kick Cesc out of two games. That Sky chose to put the tackle on a loop while ignoring Taylor’s antics last weekend sums them up.

Wenger went further, talking about the continued notion that the best tactic against Arsenal is to kick us. Not be physical, but to deliberately hack and foul:

“What is more funny is that, when we get kicked, some people say before the game ‘we know how to play Arsenal, we have to kick them’ and nobody in the whole country is upset by that.”

“I am always absolutely amazed that people get away with it. When we get kicked and lose the game, the question I get from the press is ‘oh, you did not fancy that’. But nobody is upset or shocked by it. When we are kicked they find that it is absolutely all right.”

“I said after the Bolton game if Gallas has injured the player, we are sorry. We will have a look at the tackle and if it is malicious we will come out and make a statement. We looked at it carefully and we saw that it was just a mistimed tackle. That is why we didn’t see why such a story should flare up and make a national issue if the intention of the player was completely right.”

Absolutely. And again, timed to perfection, with Ricardo Fuller stating Stoke’s intentions ahead of tomorrow’s game:

“The Britannia, it’s like a fortress, and if we do play to our strengths I don’t think Arsenal can deal with the aggressive play.”“It’s been proved in the past that Chelsea and Bolton have roughed them up and tried to bully them. We can also be rough and aggressive when we need to.”

Wenger has a point. When players and managers come out before a game and say that their intention is to kick us off the park, how is that acceptable? When a player cynically spends a match trying to remove our best players from the pitch, it is seen as valid, but when Gallas mistimes a tackle, or Rosicky responds, they are brought into to media spotlight and condemned. Bolton’s bleating this week has been pathetic.

The crazy thing is that the press are about two years behind in their assertion. We have been a soft touch in the past, but Cesc now responds with his feet, Rosicky and Nasri have a spiky quality, and Vermaelen and Gallas are as fierce a pairing as you will find anywhere in the Premiership. We don’t roll over – we haven’t all season.

Tomorrow, we will see if the next generation can treat the aggressive nature of the opposition with the same contempt. Bring it on.

  9 Responses to “Wenger right to rest players for Stoke + fighting talk”


  2. We do have a massively strong squad – that’s why we’re top of the league with the biggest injury list in the division.

    No-one can account for missing an entire team. If you still have great reserves at that point, you will have enormous unrest when players are fit and available.

    You can’t have it all ways.

  3. arsenal is strong, we just unlucky with injuries, but whatever happens 2moro, ill b proud of the team, i think wenger should rotate his squade, some players need a breather, let the kids do the job this time… n i hope cameroon loses on monday so that we can get song back asap.

  4. shayne, imagine the arsenal without injuries.

  5. Shayne, pray for whatever club you support be it in the EPL or elsewhere when Arsenal all their players back and injury-free and AW gets to keep them together for another two seasons. The 49-games unbeaten will be a child’s play as will be the treble titles Man Utd won.We may even go for Barcelona’s six title-a year record.
    But right now, we are going thru a patch and WE WILL GET THRU IT SURELY.And when we do, we wont spare your club whatever name its called, I can assure you!

    I think its best we go to Stoke and play to win or draw and so drag them back to the Emirates for some sound Bolton-like thumping.

  6. I think u r spot on when u mentioned that our players are less intimidated now, by these physical sides, than they used to be earlier… This has actually helped us come thru in some of the tough away games this season.. But i must say this physical approach by our opponents ( often with the malicious intent to kick us out of the game) is one of the reasons why our players get injured more often than the other teams’.. Dunno why no one has figured this one out yet!

  7. Remember how resting players is the recipe for disaster,everytime over the last 5 seasons Wenger have rested players in important games we have come out with a bad result and the momentum is gone,he is taking a hugh risk on our season,failure at stoke and villa and our season could be over,will anyone fancy that ?.Furthermore it is a myth that hte players coming off a weeks rest cant play 2 games inside 3 days,what are they,little babies ????

  8. […] the experience of going to places like the Brittania stadium, Wenger opted for the latter. As I covered yesterday, I felt this to be the only sensible choice, but the risk was obvious – a defeat would leave the […]

  9. wenger must sign a tall and strong defender and defensive midfielder to make Arsenal so strong.

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