Arsenal's Injuries, Mark Schwarzer and Improvements
Good morning. We're very close to the start of the new season now, and finally our attention can start to turn to Arsenal's first league fixture of the season against Liverpool at Anfield.
The injury situation is far from ideal for Arsenal. Johan Djourou is out leaving absolutely no cover at centre-half apart from young Havard Nordtveit. Alex Song is definitely out and that's a very unfortunate absence indeed. Given that a start for Jack Wilshere is quite likely, a tough senior figure like Song next to him would have been a real benefit.
Denilson and Diaby are both facing late fitness tests but haven't had any preseason matches anyway, and then we have Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie, who may or may not be risked after returning to training after everyone else because of their involvement in the World Cup final.
I have to say I would be a bit annoyed to see Van Persie and Fabregas rested for this game. If we were at home to lesser opposition for our first game, I could see more of a case for resting them, but this is going to be a tough, tough game which the team is already missing players for.
There's no doubt Liverpool will start Kuyt and if Torres were fit he'd definitely be playing as well, so Arsenal can't afford to be so cautious with their big players. Bare in mind as well that Fabregas didn't play anything close to the full tournament in South Africa, he won't be in bad shape and should be able to play if push comes to shove.
More on that game in the next couple of days, sticking with today's news it seems that Mark Schwarzer's reported desire to leave Fulham is quite genuine. He is reported in the Australian Daily Telegraph as saying, "I need it [the move to Arsenal] to happen. I've had a couple of chats with Mark [Hughes]. It's delicately poised.
"Who wouldn't be keen to go to Arsenal? At this stage in my career it's an amazing opportunity to play at that level and one I really want to take.
"It's taken a long time and the season's very close. On one hand you understand them not wanting to disrupt too many things but I want things resolved as quickly as possible.
"Only time will tell whether that happens or not."
This won't be the first time Arsenal have had to contend with the awkwardness of Mark Hughes, of course, he's not a manager that Arsene Wenger is on the best terms with and it looks like Hughes is going to make this as difficult as possible.
At this stage, there can be little doubt that Schwarzer is the goalkeeper Arsene Wenger wants, so whatever Arsenal fans may think of that choice it seems very doubtful there will be an alternative. With that in mind I'm sure the fans will be crossing their fingers and hoping Arsenal can sort something out.
Thomas Vermaelen has been talking about Arsenal's preparations for the new season and how the side can learn from its mistakes last season. Learning from mistakes has not been a strong point of Arsenal's in recent years, but with new additions and better players like Vermaelen rising to prominence in the team perhaps that can be remedied.
Vermaelen seems like a winner to me. I don't think he'll be frightened to give other players a figurative boot up the backside when they're under performing. Arsenal need more such players.
Theo Walcott has rightly said that it is a "massive" season for him. Walcott is coming into this season in the same situation as Samir Nasri, having suffered the disappointment of a slightly unjust omission from his country's World Cup squad. He would do well to follow Nasri's example, as the young Frenchman looks like he's going to be spurred on to great things by his disappointment during the summer.
Whether Walcott has that same strength of character is going to be a key factor in what sort of season he has in my opinion. He's not far away from being a very good player indeed, he needs to knuckle down to the last few things he needs to improve such as his crossing and decision-making in the final third.
He's likely to get a start this weekend on the ground where he created an exceptional goal in the Champions League a couple of seasons ago. It's a good a place to start as any.
Finally for today, we finish on some cheerful news. It seems we may well see Aaron Ramsey back in an Arsenal shirt before Christmas. I'm sure he can't wait and neither can the fans waiting to welcome him back. Speculation as to just how strongly he can return can wait, for the moment I'm just looking forward to seeing him play football again.
So that's your lot for today, the countdown continues to the first game of the season and it's all getting a bit exciting. More tomorrow.
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