After the horrific events of last Saturday, having a full week until their next game was a blessing for the players. Arsene Wenger is said to have given the players an extra day off to get over what happened to their team mate and ultimately their good friend Eduardo. This much needed rest time could be crucial with the title race hotting up.
This week has seen various reports on the health of Eduardo, the feelings of Martin Taylor and the heroics of Gary Lewin. Most people are probably sick to death of such reports but there are two things I would like to focus on quickly. We all (21,500 emails!!!) obviously wish Eddy a speedy recovery and it is reported Taylor himself visited the striker in hospital and had his apologies accepted. Why then, was this said in an interview with our no.9?
Did Martin Taylor visit you or called you to apologize?
- As far as I remember, he didn’t stop by.
Would you accept his apology for such a brutal tackle?
- Of course I would, that’s life, I don’t blame him. These things happen in football.
Was it the idea of Birmingham City to put out such a claim? Maybe they hoped to lay to bed certain claims for Taylor to be punished; leaving him to move on from the incident. There is no reason to say Eddy would not have accepted an apology had it come. The fear he might blame Taylor should they meet face to face was non existent. Could it just have been Eduardo was so drugged up on morphine he doesn’t remember anything about this meeting and it did happen? I guess for now we will not know the real events.
Lastly I want to salute Gary Lewin. This guy has been with Arsenal for 20 years or so and is still as dedicated as ever. Reports have shown he may have saved Eduardo’s career and for that the fans owe him, the club owes him but most importantly Eduardo owes him. In a way, what Lewin did was out of his normal job description; his job is to analyse strains and knocks on the pitch, not deal with horrific injuries such as this.
This is not the first time he has done such a brilliant job for a professional footballer. Many will remember the events of the Carling Cup Final when John Terry was knocked out cold by Abou Diaby. Lo and behold it was Gary Lewin who was first on the scene. He sensed there was a real problem and putting club rivalry behind him he simply rushed to help a fellow human being. He may well have saved John Terry that day; not just his career but his life. Gary is arguably the best in the business and at times it is people like him behind the scenes that need recognition.
Hopefully the players have put the horrible images out of their minds and are now focused on the pursuit of the title. If they were not already determined to win the Premier League, the injury to Eduardo surely provides an added incentive. It reminds me of the season Robert Pires was cruelly laid out as he was lighting up the Premiership. Hopefully we see Eduardo lifting the trophy, reminiscent of the day Pires did the same.
Following the injury, it was thought that Wenger might have Van Persie on the bench this Saturday as the squad becomes extremely limited in numbers. It seems however that Wenger will wait a bit longer before bringing him back. It may be taking a while but if the timing is right and we get Van Persie back in prime condition, it could be a massive boost come the final months of the season. Tomas Rosicky is also still out and I feel Wenger realises the importance of having these two back, but back in top notch.
One player that is back is Abou Diaby but I think he will only make the bench. Otherwise I feel it will be the team that ended the match against Birmingham that starts this match. The back four picks itself and Almunia will get another chance in goal to stake his claim for the return leg against Milan.
Theo Walcott impressed me massively and his performance was understandably overshadowed.
The two goals will give him confidence and it is a weight off his shoulders to get his first league goals. With the injuries we currently have he also knows he has a chance to get a run in the side, he needs to take it. We need to start winning games now and hopefully Wenger will not mess with the midfield trio of Hleb, Cesc and Flamini. They have been the mainstay of this side and we need our best players to get through a tricky period like this.
On the subject of Flamini, I am starting to get worried with his lack of commitment to this club and a new contract. He has been one of the reasons our performances have turned around this season and hopefully he signs up. He was not wanted by Wenger at the start of the summer but having forced his way into the side it would be a real shame to throw it all away. Arsenal is a side going places and Juventus are a side struggling to close the gap in Serie A, I do not understand why he would want to leave. It seems like his agent is trying to bump up his pay deal by a few grand.
Wenger has the option of playing Theo up front with Adebayor but for now I feel he will give Bendtner his chance to shine. He has improved this season and now is the time to show if he is ready to make the final step up. He has not made a huge impression in the League and with Van Persie back soon, the pressure is on him to perform. Ade just needs to start scoring again, simple as that. I guess one could say the relationship between the two strikers must improve, I hope it was just his striker’s instinct that made him go for goal rather than square it to Nick.
Subs: Lehmann, Gilberto, Denilson, Diaby, Hoyte
It is a pity we are playing Villa after this small dip in results combined with such a horrific turn of events last weekend. They play on the counter with pace and the full backs will have a tough job on their hands. Gallas will need to stay tight to Agbonlahor and we will rely on Phil to stifle the aerial threat of Carew. We have seen they are dangerous from set pieces, an area in which we are particularly weak. It is a big game but if we take our chances and are disciplined at the back we should get the points. Saying that, it will be far from easy.