So we come to it at last…the great battle of our time. So said Gandalf and so say I. I don’t know about you but this week has taken an excruciatingly long time to expire, and hanging over the edge of a big game like this is nerve inducing to say the least. After battling and fighting our way into a decent league position over the last few months, we have done a very impressive job of making things hard for ourselves. Although we technically have 3rd place in our hands it feels about as stable as a wet fish, flopping around and being wet and liable to hit the floor at any moment. As I’m sure you all know a win is a win and we take third, but anything less leaves us open to attack from the rear, a position few of us like to be attacked from. Fulham take the short journey to the Lane and Newcastle is hosted by Everton. In the most predictable of seasons these games would fairly easy to call; a Tottenham home win and a low scoring affair at Goodison, probably ending up in a draw. Yet this season has had us deal with more curveballs than Babe Ruth, so the result of either game is particularly hard to call.
Wenger has been asked plenty of times over the last week if he is concerned that West Brom will try and give Roy Hodgson a worthy send off and will therefore be playing out of their skin, but I’m not sure that’s something for us to worry about. Whether we win or lose games like this is usually entirely dependent on how we perform as a team, our work rate being at the required level and whether we can take or chances in front of goal. Our performance against Norwich was one that was entirely self inflicted, and while we missed innumerable chances to score were didn’t score three goals at home. Against any opposition, and especially newly promoted opposition, there is no way that we shouldn’t be winning home games after scoring three goals. Many people have criticised Song for not covering sufficiently well during the games when Vermaelen drifts up the pitch, but I think that Vermaelen’s priority ought to be ensuring the clean sheet, rather than dirtying the oppositions. If we’re a goal down with second left on the ticker then of course he should get involved and he’s won us many games this season by doing just that, but Song has shown himself to be more that capable of providing on the offensive end. Thus I’m hoping to see a far more disciplined performance today against West Brom.
In terms of team news, Walcott is apparently in with a shout and trained a little mid week, but all the usual suspects are out. Sagna is of course still out and Coq will step in no doubt. I have been advocating for some time that we should be trying to involve Chamakh as much as possible, firstly because I think he would find the necessary form and confidence through minutes on the pitch and secondly because I thought months ago that Van Persie would succumb to an injury during the home stretch and Chamakh should be confident coming in to cover rather than coming in cold. This hasn’t happened, and perhaps it’s because I would like to see a 4-4-2 used from the start rather than with five minutes to go when we need a goal, but I think Chamakh and The Perse on the same team could well be gorgeously dangerous.
In terms of a team I would pick:
Szczesny, Coquelin, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Santos, Song, Rosicky, Gervinho, Chamberlain, Chamakh, Van Persie.
It’s an attacking line up and would require Song to be more disciplined than perhaps he is normally, but this team has goals in it and today, goals are just what we’re going to need.