Belgrade Expectations

Here we go again! It’s time to get back on track, iron out our failings and learn from our mistakes. Simples.

Of course, losing is part of the rich tapestry of football. But losing while seemingly having forgotten the basics is harder to shrug off.

If you fall off a horse, they say, the best thing to do is get straight back in the saddle. Now personally, I wouldn’t know whether this is true or false as I’ve never sat on one. I’m quite probably the most allergic-to-horses man that has even set foot on earth. Many years ago I was invited and went to a horse race thing (rookie error for a townie like me), and despite only setting foot in the beer tent all day, my eyes bulged out like a bug and I developed a good line in loud, uncontrollable dad sneezes. Someone might as well have dipped my head in a beehive.

But the point is this: there’s nothing like a big game to remedy a recent bad one.

So what are we looking for tomorrow? Despite professing to being baffled by his team on Saturday, I suspect the Wenger knows exactly what is required. With Almunia out injured, we know already that Fabianski will get the latest in a long line of chances between the sticks against Belgrade. To say he’s under a lot of pressure to perform would be an understatement. The scrutiny will be immense. But he simply has to have an error-free game.

But even if he had been hypnotised by Gordon Banks and marinaded in the spirit of Lev Yashin he wouldn’t be able to do it on his own. To stand a chance of success, he needs not just his defence, but also the defensive screen in front of them, to remember what their jobs entail.

Whether that means changes in personnel, I’m not so sure. Sagna, despite a rotten game on Saturday, has not become a bad player overnight. He’s easily the best option at right-back. In the absence of Vermaelen and given the rustiness of Djourou, Squillaci and Koscielny are the best bets at centre-half (and besides, both have been largely impressive anyway). If you were going to make any change, you might consider Gibbs at left-back in the place of Clichy, who has not started this season well. If he is 100% fit then I’m all for it. He’s pushing Clichy very hard. But given his injury record, I’d worry about playing him if there was even the smallest chance it might backfire.

There is much more scope for change in the middle. Diaby has not even travelled and I can’t see any sense in using Eboue at all, other than as back-up to Sagna (which let’s face it, is the role that suits him most). Let’s remind Song of his defensive discipline – or else play Denilson. Play Wilshere and Rosicky from the start.

As for Arshavin; it’s clear he has his detractors but for his ability to change a game – conjured, often, from the depths of an average performance – I’d play him. He’s scored four goals in eight appearances (7 starts, 1 sub), let’s not forget. With scoring form like this, even allowing for a goalscoring lull, he is on track to beat his season best of 12 goals.

With Jollygood anonymous since his Braga brace, Chamakh will surely be holding the line again, but that’s fine – he’s made a good start to his Arsenal career with three goals in eight. He’ll need a break at some point but if we can keep him in one piece until Bendtner or van Persie return, then he’s very much the main man.

Overall though we need to concentrate and to iron out the silly stuff, but surely that’s a given. There’s always a positive reaction after this side has let itself down.

The trouble, though, with this team is that there’s often another massive disappointment after the positive reaction.

Now if Wenger can iron that little tic out, we’re onto something…

9 thoughts on “Belgrade Expectations

  1. The problem with Arshavin is that so many of our moves end with him, so our overall performance tends to be mirror his. Once in a while he displays pure genius which leads to a goal. Unfortunately, he is very inconsistent and most of his passing attempts are over-ambitious or simply errant. It frustrates me to no end to see him try a backheel pass that misses by 10 yards, when there was clearly a simpler, BETTER alternative which would have kept the play going. Also, his one-vs-one moves lately have tended to end in swift counterattacks by the opposition.

  2. Providing Gibbs is fit, then both full backs should be replaced from Saturday’s fiasco, putting Eboue in at RB. Song should be told not to venture over the half way line and Arshavin must be told in no uncertain terms that he must carry out his defensive duties, if he is starting wide left.

    Nothing but a win tonight will be acceptable.

  3. So Diaby’s been dropped? He has well and truly been in Arsene Wenger’s first-choice 11 for a couple years (when healthy), so this feels like a seismic shift.

    It’s Diaby’s own fault for being not quite right in the head. He can play really well, but doesn’t always force himself to do so.

    He’s done really well for France recently, and as a backup at Arsenal, he should always be fresh for his national team.

  4. Very surprising to me to see Diaby not travel. I would love for Arsene to play the Goal Machine tonight at RB while keeping Kos and Squillaci in the center. It’s hard for me to have high hopes while Fabianski is in goal, though I think that this is a perfect “measuring stick” match. We’re coming off a disappointing result and going into a country where we’ve not been particularly strong with Chelsea looming on the horizon. I think we’re looking at 1-1 at best; hoping beyond hope that I’m wrong.

    Whatever the result, I’m certain that tonights match will tell us more about the character, desire and conviction of our boys than any six goal thrashing ever could. Come on, you Reds, and here’s to three points.

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