Mar 262010

The aftermath of Vermaelen’s red card last weekend was telling. A centre back down and defending a narrow lead, Wenger had a suitable (ideal may not be the right word) replacement on the bench in Silvestre. Instead of sacrificing a midfielder (probably Denilson) to bring him into the fray, he opted to drop Song back into defence.

The obvious conclusion is that the manager considered Song a more reliable option at the back, and I’m not sure you’d get find too many people arguing against that assertion. But it actually runs deeper than that.

Song was putting in a match-winning performance in midfield, yet Wenger was still content to weaken that area of the pitch to shore up his defence. So the actual statement of preference was:

Wenger considered Song a better option than Silvestre in the defence, and the disparity was sufficient to voluntarily risk handing West Ham the initiative in midfield.

That is quite the indicator of where Silvestre currently lies in the pecking order. I first mentioned this on Wednesday, coming to the conclusion that Wenger would continue to prefer Song in defence if necessary. That view was backed up in yesterday’s press conference, with the manager confirming that Campbell will start tomorrow, rather than resting him ahead of Barcelona on Wednesday.

If Campbell doesn’t play, then Silvestre does, and I don’t see that happening. I expect Song to partner Sol again tomorrow, and also line up alongside Vermaelen in midweekif necessary. If Sol can play twice in four days, great, but either way I can’t see Silvestre getting a look in.

Central defensive worries are not the only story leading into tomorrow’s game. If he passes a fitness test, Bendtner will get a chance to lead the line against the team he had a successful loan spell with, but perhaps the most emotive story could be that of Eduardo, who returns to St Andrews for the first time since having his ankle shattered by Martin Taylor a little over two years ago, a blow his career has never really recovered from.

Bendtner’s injury means that even if Eduardo doesn’t start, he is likely to emerge at some point, and with football being a game of poignant stories, my bet of the day is for the Croatian to score at any time during the game. You can get odds of 6/5 with Sportingbet on that.

If you are feeling less romantic, it would probably be wise to tip a tight match. Birmingham are unbeaten in eleven games at home, and are hard to break down. But they played midweek, so you would hope our fitness would tell in the end, and you can get 3/1 on the match being level at half time, but us picking up the points after the ninety.

Two years ago, our campaign was derailed at St. Andrews, and if the players have one eye on Barcelona, the same might happen tomorrow. But despite their youth, this team seems to have the fabled mental strength that Wenger so often talks about, and focus seems too strong minds to let the concentration slip. We might have Europe in our sights, but they won’t be thinking about that tomorrow.

Besides, we owe Birmingham after the incidents of two years ago. Get it done.

Enjoy the match, wherever you are.

  13 Responses to “Silvestre may play only when there are no other options available”

  1. i dont see why we are giving Silvestre a kicking hes not been that bad when called upon.And he is an Arsenal player a, as of now,so lets support him(and hope for the best)

  2. regarding the central defensive positions for the future:

    I am hoping Wenger is planning to buy a relatively young centre back in the summer (ideally sahko). If he is commited, Gallas gets another year (with optional second) as starting CB, with Djourou and Sahko as first reserves.

    Then the following year We would have Djourou and Sahko to partner TV5, with Bartley and Song as further backup.

    If dealings this summer go as above, we could let Silvestre (definitely) and Campbell (with massive appreciation for the job he’s done this season) go. If Gallas doesn’t stay then offer Campbell another season.

  3. Don’t really rate Silvestre anymore after seeing his performances in the shirt. Has really lost his edge with the pace gone and age. But yeah he’s a natural defender so you have a point. Wenger might not want to take even this sort of risk at this stage, it appears to be.

    Looking forward more to how Gunners handle the Birmingham angle. Now going after the title again and another big game at St Andrews. Can anyone say deja vu?

  4. Glad to see that someone shares my view on the Song Silvestre issue.Trust me,we suffered a lot in the middle when Song took up central defence role,Songs timing as a CB is far from perfect too.I believe we are better off with Song in the holding to break opposition play and let Silvestre clean up.The game we lost to stoke where Sol and Silvestre played we didn’t have Song in front of them and we played a very very young and inexperienced side.We need Song in in natural role today,it is key. I wouldn’t even mind playing Denilson as CB just to have Song at DM.

  5. This is d coqunsicuence of Wenger stuborness for not buying players..our team selection would hav been perfect..wit 2new plays 1CB 1FW..but i think AW is d one dt wil hav d troble for team selection..not fans…let bown d man dat bown fans and pray for the team..but i prefer micheal in SB & Song in DM.

  6. George, it isn’t so much that we’re giving him a hard time – he’s always been a loyal professional whatever we think of his abilities. But it seems that Wenger doesn’t want to risk him at this stage.

    We’ll support him if he plays, but I don’t think he will.

  7. Segzygun, I’m sure every attempt was made to sign players. One thing is for sure though – centre backs must be signed this summer as any of Silvestre/Campbell/Gallas could be gone.

  8. Why do we need to buy a young centre back when we already have four good prospects in Nordveit (may play DM), Ayling, Bartley and Miquel?

    As for Den at CB, please god no!

  9. Somersetgooner – because the gap between our first team and our kids is huge. All of those you mention are ready to step up to where Djourou has been for the last couple of years (i.e. promising, and making occasional first team appearances), but what we may need is a regular first teamer, as we found this year in Vermaelen.

  10. Song is one of the players to initiate attacks. Even at CB he could do it with ease. With his calmness we won’t have to clean the ball out back to opponent’s half so often.

  11. while I agree that he undoubtedly has more faith in Song than sylvestre at the back (why wouldn’t he – song has put in some stirling performances there in the past and he is in good form now), but I think you have oversimplified the midfield issue. Unlike his many critics, Denilson was also key to the decision. He trusted him to step up and cover for the absence of Song and versatility is key to wengers vision for this team. Increasingly, many gooners will have to eat humble pie and admit that denilson can become a hell of a player and the only way that will happen is if he plays. telling silence from his detractors following his recent excellent performances(dont take that as a dig at this blog, I honestly haven’t read it enough to know your position on the brazilian)

  12. Bigface, I actually agree on Denilson. Song is currently better, but that doesn’t mean Denilson cannot step up and become the player we all want him to be. I think concentration is his main issue, but maturity can help that.

    Last weekend, as I said at the time, was a true humble pie match. Song, Eboue, Denilson, Almunia and Bendtner all had fine games, despite all coming up against the fanbase at one point or another.

  13. 6-5 seems like terrible odds given that Ed hasn’t scored that manby this season. I hope he does score today, that twat Taylor set his career back by at least 2 years

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