How does one become a “different animal”?

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Arsene Wenger has stated that victory against Bayern would see us become a “completely different animal”. I suppose this means that we will become an unstoppable force for the remainder of the season and sweep aside all challengers on the back of our new-found confidence!.. Well, I certainly commend him for presenting an upbeat front. An away win against the Germans would be great for our self-belief. There are however a few tell tale signs that suggest to me that the leopard won’t be changing it’s spots any time soon…

Squad selection is the main area of concern; Diaby could be granted a starting berth having recovered from his calf strain, despite having played only 60 minutes of football in the past month. His performances this season, with the exception of a handful of matches back in September, cannot be described as acceptable calibre. Wenger seems obsessed with persisting with the man in big games, despite the woeful consequences (recall the 2-1 losses against Chelsea, the humiliation at home to Manchester City, and the most obscene result of all – the 1-0 FA Cup home defeat to Blackburn!). The man is simply not up for the big occasion! He has had more chances at the club than anyone and has not taken them. If we can find an interested party for him in the summer (£5 million anyone?) then let’s jump on it…

Gibbs is also scheduled to make his return at left back, thereby rescuing Captain V from further humiliation. The young lad has not featured in the first team squad since 30th January and on the face of it this seems a decent opportunity for a run out before our final run of league games. The problem being however that a Champions League tie against the second best team in Europe is not the place for a “run out”!… I would sooner keep Vermaelen at left back for this one (despite the hardship he may endure) as we need everyone on the pitch fully up to speed and acclimatised to the rigours of European football.

Podolski is reportedly suffering from an ankle injury, so he won’t participate either. I am sick and tired of criticism being directed at him – Le Grove blog wrote this morning that he is “not rising to the challenges” and that we ought to ship him on in the summer. Complete lunacy! …his level of industry was impressive until the turn of the year when fatigue began setting in (another example of mismanagement). Furthermore, 8 goals and 9 assists in 21 starts is not the worst return from someone being played out of position in what is his first season at the club. Anyway, onto another interesting selection decision….The omission of Chesney (the one and only). Some claim that this amounts to Wenger “dropping him”. I understand how it can be seen it this way, although my guess is that Wenger is actually thinking much bigger picture here; by “dropping” Chezzer he essentially protects him from a potentially soul destroying experience later this evening. Counter intuitive you may say, especially as our only alternative is Fabianski! Yet deep down inside that cerebral machine of Wenger’s, I think the game has already been written off (miracles welcome of course!). Running the risk of exposing your one and only (low on confidence as he is) to a potential 4-0 thumping is not going to do any favours for the remainder of the season. Having said this, what does such a decision mean for the rest of the squad that have to play in front of (and protect) Fabianski this evening?….

In sum, although Wenger alludes to the fact that a victory against the Germans could have the potential to turn our season around, he seems not to believe in his own words (or at worst betraying what he believes is the right thing to do by sacrificing the game in favour of the remainder of the season). If transforming our fortunes relies so much on us becoming a “completely different beast”, then why are we playing those that aren’t match fit or up to scratch, whilst dropping those most up to speed? It seems odd to me…

Joshua @ RL

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Categories: General, Injuries, UEFA Champions League

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