It’s musical players tonight as we take on ‘Stam at creaky old but ever-so-lovely Highbury. The amount of times we’ll watch our team at our home of 93 years is fast dwindling, isn’t it? League and FA Cup ties at Highbury have both been consigned to history, we’ve got just eight league games including the one tonight, making a maximum of eleven competitive games left, assuming as I am doing, perhaps slightly optimistically, that we’ll reach the semi-final of the Champions League.
I fear that come May 7th I might cry – partly sentimentally, and maybe partly down to our comedy away form.
Onto tonight, and at the last count we’ve got ten first team players out, if you include new boys Walcott and Adebayor that is, which I am. Just as the perfect hat-trick is a headed goal, a left-footed goal and a right-footed goal, the perfect absentee list comprises injured players, suspended players, players on international duty and new signings bedding down before playing. We’ve got the lot.
Of course, in recent seasons we’d have been looking over our shoulders at the disappearing spectre of Tottingham, but this year it’s all change and we’re chasing their coat tails. If last night’s defeat didn’t act as some kind of spur – no pun intended – to close the gap on them, then nothing will.
Not that it will be easy, as ‘Stam are a mere five points behind us and having a humdinger of a return-to-the-top-flight season. Every team now thinks they have a chance against us – maybe except the dreadful Muddlesboro – and it’s something we have to learn to live with. That said, our league form at home is exemplary, with just five points dropped, and three of those came against the team that ran up an overdraft of £140m last year.
Finally, it’s goodbye to two players, David Bentley and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie. The former probably blew his chances of a return some time back with some comments about not being given enough of a chance, and the latter never made the grade full stop. Bentley never did play as much as we thought he might, but we can only assume Wenger knows what he’s doing – it’s not like he doesn’t play young players if they are good enough.
And now for a list of young players Wenger hasn’t given a chance to: Fabregas (18), Senderos (20), Cole (19 when given debut), Gilbert (18), Djourou (19), Flamini (21), Reyes (still only 22), Diaby (19), Eboue, Clichy, Lupoli, etc, etc…