Arsenal: Good News On Jack Wilshere, 2012 the Year of the Ox, and Wolves Preview
2011 will be a year that will fill Gooners with mixed emotions, because it had it all. But like every other Arsenal fan, I look forward to 2012 with hope and optimism for the foreseeable future.
Jack Wilshere is certainly a player that had a great start in 2011, and his exploits on the pitch won him the PFA Young Player of the Year award in April. An ankle injury suffered during the preseason will keep Wilshere out of action for the remainder of the year, but we've received good news that he'll start running this week.
Wilshere's return to full fitness will be a massive boost to Arsene Wenger, as he plans to win the title, amongst other honors in 2012.
Arsenal has a very realistic chance of winning the FA Cup, while a win over AC Milan in the Champions League first knockout round will go a long way to determine if Arsene Wenger's men are good enough to win the biggest prize of them all.
FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and FC Bayern are still in the competition, so you'll have to be one hell of an optimist to believe that Arsenal is good enough to win the Champions League.
Arsenal signed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for £12 million, and the youngster has featured sparingly for the Gunners.
He made an instant impact in his debut with a goal, and he has terrorized defenses in the Carling Cup. With Gervinho flying to Africa pretty soon coupled with Andrey Arshavin's putrid performances, the fans have called on Arsene Wenger to have more of the Ox.
Arsene Wenger has hinted that 2012 will be the year of the Ox:
"In 2012, at the beginning of the year, he will play games. Alex is a talented boy, it is all there—he just needs that toughness in the game, and because every game for us is so tight."
"At Aston Villa last week, again, I could have brought him on and you have the hesitation to do it—but you do not want him to be a little bit over-ruled by the intensity of the game."
"He is ready to play. Alex is just missing that experience at the top level. You have to throw him a few games."
I've seen this bloke play, and this confidence levels can be compared to Wojciech Szczesny in goal.
He's never afraid to take on his man, and he possesses the crossing ability of an old-fashioned English winger, and let's not forget that he has reserves of raw pace that are comparable to Theo Walcott.
In the Boxing Day fixtures, Santa Claus brought some presents to Manchester United by giving Dimitar Berbatov new shooting boots, and the Bulgarian used them to run Wigan ragged with a stunning hat trick.
Santa also ensured that the festive period would be great for the Red Devils, as all fellow title hopefuls dropped points.
André Villas-Boas "Constrictor" was a puzzled man yet again, as Fulham came to Stamford Bridge to share the spoils with Chelsea. Liverpool also dropped points against relegation-threatened Blackburn, but the biggest of them all was the goalless stalemate between West Brom and Manchester City.
Arsenal take on Wolves today knowing that a win will propel them into the promised land, and they'll stay there this time.
A player that's paying close attention to this game is Robin van Persie, as he's just two goals shy of equaling Alan Shearer's record. But Arsene Wenger is pondering resting the Dutch forward.
Wenger believes that starting three games in a week is a "big demand" for van Persie, and he intends to access the situation.
It's true that van Persie isn't Dirk Kuyt or Park Ji-Sung, but Wenger should remember that van Persie doesn't have to play all 90 minutes in each game. That's why we have Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young.
Following the midweek win over Aston Villa, Arsenal has amassed 25 points from a possible 30, and it's fair to say that the club is still in good form despite the setbacks from Fulham and Manchester City.
Wolves are known for their dogged style of play and stubbornness, but Mick McCarthy's men have lost six of their last nine games.
Wolves come into this game one point and one place above the drop zone, having picked up just four points out of a possible 32 on the road this season. They are also without Jamie O’Hara (groin), Joey Craddock (hamstring), Edwards (groin) and Foley (ankle).
Arsenal come into the game with all their fullbacks still missing in action, and Vito Mannone (shoulder) is the latest member to renew his license with the injury club.
In team news, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue between the sticks.
Makeshift fullbacks Thomas Vermaelen and Francis Coquelin will continue in the fullback positions, while Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will continue at the heart of Arsenal's defense.
Alex Song has served his suspension, so he'll be drafted back to the squad alongside Mikel Arteta (who is one card away from suspension) in the middle of the park. Aaron Ramsey will be deployed in the hole behind the forward line.
Gervinho and Walcott will provide wit and pace down the flanks, while the red-hot Robin van Persie will spearhead the attack.
Enjoy the game, wherever you are.
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