No, not Manchester United, it’s Leeds United. Why do they have the same name you ask? I’m guessing a strong belief in the proletariat. You know how the social democrats are in Europe. Anyway, the duplication of names by English Clubs is always funny. But hey, we roll with the punches, even with names like the Cottagers, the Lilywhites (grrr scary!) and that most confusing of battle cries -Hallo, Come on you Wednesdays! Anyway, say the words “Leeds United” to any Englishman and prepare yourself for understated comments about famous Club “firms,” laughable administration and grand tradition. Before too many English Gooners send me hate email and try to correct what I said; it’s just a joke. But what’s not a joke is Wednesday’s game.
This Wednesday is Part Two of what should have been a One Part match: Arsenal win, Leeds go home. All is right in the Universe. Instead, like a bad sequel, the bad guy had a son/wife/apprentice and the battle must go on. AND, to add more pleasure to the cocktail that is the FA league and tournament system, now Arsenal must do it the hard way and travel up to Elland Road.
Normally, I wouldn’t mind a second round. After all, it gives Arsenal a chance to blood some youngsters, even if the team will be heavily fortified with veterans. But Leeds is one of those teams and the FA Cup one of those tournaments that make traditional Big 4 Clubs drop some peptobismal and morphine before the match to prepare.
I say all this because I’m giving Leeds United some respect –something I’m not usually want to do with teams that aren’t even in the Premier League. But respect is warranted after the nail biter finish to the first game; the resulting “controversy” because of Walcott’s comments; the fact that Leeds actually attacked Arsenal, they didn’t play “rugby” style; and, since the first match was at home, now Arsenal must win away.
It’s no surprise Gooners are a nervous lot these days –it’s born of five years of high expectations and no results, not to mention having to listen to ManU and Chelsea fans. But I’m an optimist by nature and think the boys will pull it out. That said, I do have one concern: Djourou being overplayed.
Not to go off on a tangent, but here I go: Vermaelen is basically out for the season. Even when he returns from surgery he won’t be match fit immediately. So can we please get a central defender? This was one, not all, but a big one of our major issues last year. It’s like déjà vu: Arsene please buy a central defender? Last year they weren’t good enough. This year they’re all hurt. Okay, tangent over…
So here’s the expected lineup, with the following caveats, (1) don’t forget that we have those wannabe monster killers Wigan on Saturday (2-2 in the last game), and (2) Nasri has a knock that needs to be taken care of, although it might not prevent him from playing.
Szczesny –AKA “The Natural” is between the posts. By the way, has anyone demonstrated more Iker Casillas-like skill for Keeping than this guy? He’s the real deal. We have a world class GK developing here. Scary to say, huh?
Gibbs, Djourou, Koscielny, Sagna –I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if Gibbs or Clichy will start. And frankly, since I think Arshavin will start, I’m not sure it matters. Whoever it is, Arshavin will go out of his way to make them look bad (fingers crossed I’m wrong). Djourou has become a weird DNA mix of a rock, US Marine Gunney Sergeant and life coach in the back line; so that’s fine. Kos is doing better; if nothing else he proves how good the talent is in France. Nobody thought he’d even be able to adapt, let alone play regularly. Whatever you think of his talent. He’s relatively consistent and improving slowly. Sagna or Eboue? I don’t know. Sagna can return from his red card ban, meaning he’s had an enforced rest. But it’s another chance for Eboue to start, which he’s not doing much. Flip a coin.
Rosicky, Arshavin, Denilson –these are the games we have Rosicky for; although, Fabregas has a good chance of starting then getting pulled if a lead is built up. Arshavin is a lock to start this game because Arsene is trying to get the Russian his confidence back, and leading a team to silver has that affect on a man. Denilson will start much to the chagrin of nearly the entire Arsenal Nation sans 1 –moi. I rate Denilson and am always astounded how much people hate him and have absolutely nothing to back that up in objective numbers (especially when compared to other Arsenal players that shall remain nameless). The worst is when I hear American Gooners parroting English comments -fine hate him, but at least think for yourself! Anyway, I expect Arsene will give the kid a vote of confidence by keeping him in. I don’t think Arsene will play Song. Instead I think he’ll attack more. But hey, don’t quote me.
Chamkah, Bendtner, Walcott –Yup, I think this horrible lineup will continue. I can’t stand Chamakh and B52 playing together. But Chamakh has lost his rhythm, what with the obvious all-star lineup of Nasri, RVP and Walcott. He needs a good game and a goal to get back in the flow. Unfortunately, he’ll have to play with Bendtner. Big Daddy Dane is losing the publicity battle to stay at Arsenal this summer, so he needs to shine during games like this. Unfortunately, he keeps reminding us how far away we were last season. Starting Walcott sends two messages: (1) Arsenal are going to attack Leeds at home, and (2) Walcott needs to find his touch a bit. A game like this, where he can be unleashed and just shoooooot! can be good for the soul. But that might be more hope than reality talking.
Arsenal 2-0. Sigh. These predictions are difficult.
Final thought. I would love to see the following two things after a huge and insurmountable lead is built up:
1. Ramsey to get a run out.
2. Miquel to get a run out. I think that kid might be special.