Arsenal’s bad luck with injuries shows no sign of abating as three more first team players have been ruled out of the Champions League match against Olympiacos tomorrow. Joining Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilshere, Yossi Banyoun, Sebastian Squillaci and Abou Diaby on the sidelines are Laurent Koscielny, Gervinho and Theo Walcott.
The good news is that all three should be fit for the more important game with Spurs on Sunday, but this latest setback will really test the Gunners strength in depth.
I would anticipate the line up to be:
Sagna — Mertesacker — Djourou — Gibbs / Santos
Song — Ramsey — Arteta
Chamberlain / Park — van Persie — Arshavin
I think it would be risky to hand Chamberlain a Champions League debut before he’s even started a league match, especially as Olympiacos are an experienced European side despite lacking technical quality which makes them the weakest team in our group. However, Wenger may be prepared to throw the youngster in at the deep end after seeing how well he played against Shrewsbury last week and how much more of an impact he made than Park, who was substituted after a quiet game.
You know times are grim when you lament the absence of Koscielny
The other big decision is who starts at left back. When Gibbs lined up there against Shrewsbury in Arsenal’s second string team it appeared as though Wenger had decided Santos was his first choice. But Gibbs’ impressive performance allied to Santos’ poor display at Blackburn got him the nod to face Bolton. Santos needs to play some games soon though and I’d expect him to start tomorrow night as he bids to get up to speed and acclimatised at the club. The match should be played at a lower tempo than a hectic Premiership clash and will suit him, especially as the Greeks are likely to get 10 men behind the ball and not attack us much.
I’m much more concerned about the Spurs game to be honest. They are playing Shamrock Rovers on Thursday night and Harry is unlikely to field anybody who will start against us on Sunday, effectively giving them a free week to rest up and focus on the North London derby. We don’t have that luxury, and with all the injuries can’t even afford to rotate the squad as apart from the two calls I’ve just mentioned, the team picks itself.
We should still have enough for a win tomorrow night, but the best result for us may well be a clean bill of health ahead of Sunday’s potentially season-defining match.
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