Arsenal go to West Brom tomorrow with a few players missing. In defence, both Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole came back injured from England duty. Despite early fears, Sol may be back in time for the Sparta Prague match next week. But the news on Ash was worse than first feared and he'll be out for up to a couple of months.|
One has to hope that the excellent showing of Philippe Senderos in both of Switzerland's recent world cup matches will see him regain his place alongside Kolo Toure, but it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Big Phil rested in favour of Pascal Cygan. At left-back, Gael Clichy starts what should turn into his longest spell in the starting line-up.
Up front, Thierry Henry is still out but, like Sol, expected back soon. Robin van Persie misses the game with a thigh problem but should be back for Tuesday's match. That leaves Jose Antonio Reyes and Dennis Bergkamp as the strike force (and maybe a very capable youngster or 2 on the bench). Dennis is set to be captain, in what will be his 400th appearnace for the club.
There's still no news on the knee injury suffered by Alex Hleb last weekend, but Wenger said yesterday that there should be an update today sometime. He could be needed, because Gilberto won't start, but it seems unlikely that Hleb will start. Gilberto's not injured, but Wenger has said that he'll probably do what he usually does after the Brazilian gets back from the long trip to South America, and give him a rest. Mathieu Flamini must be favourite to partner Cesc Fabregas in the centre of midfield, but Wenger may go for a more attacking line-up using perhaps Pires.
While we do have 3 big names missing, this shouldn't be a weak Arsenal line-up. It's just a question of whether international duty has energised or knackered.
The Baggies have a few players in doubt. Former Gunners Kanu and Kevin_Campbell have been having problems with a hamstring and an ankle respectively. Kamara has been ill, and Zoltan Gera has a groin strain. None of these 4 have been ruled out as yet, but it could mean Nathan Ellington getting his second start since joining from Wigan. See Albion till we die preview. Apparently in their last match away to Blackburn Bryan Robson played 4-5-1 with 35 year old Campbell up front on his own. It didn't work. They reckon Kamara and Ellington is a more likely strike force against Arsenal, but other sources favour a return for Geoff Horsfield, and Robert Earnshaw is another possibility.
Another former Gunner Junichi Inamoto is unlikely to play. Bryan Robson has criticized him recently for not tracking back and anyway he'll have only just got back from 2 matches in Japan. Despite the Baggies bringing him back from Japan after he'd returned there after his Fulham career ended, Ina doesn't seem to be much in favour at the Hawthorns. He was loaned to Cardiff City for the end of the season.
Good news, incidentally, for Jeremie Aliadiere, currently on loan to West Ham. He's declared himself fit for the squad to play Man City on Sunday. He's just had an operation, but it turns out just to have been to repair a stitch on a long-standing hernia thingy.
This season I'm working on the Arsenal vs the World pages a bit. As we play each team, I'll be bringing the stats up to date and also adding some trivia including lists top scorers and players who've played for both clubs. See West Brom page for example.