Wednesday, February 23, 2011

As The Squad Creaks, Will Cracks Start To Show?

Arsenal v Stoke

RVP: out

Djourou now acts as Squillaci's babysitter. Bendtner or Chamakh upfront. Tony Pulis looking to throw a spanner in the works as Arsenal enter a critical phase of the season. Is the squad good enough to fight on four fronts?

By Arsenal standards, the list of unavailable players at the moment is unremarkable. But we know how quickly the injury list can reach epic proportions. And now would be an inopportune time to say the least. Arsenal have a habit of seeing whole seasons fall apart in the space of a week or two...

Whatever happens in tonight's game, I still think United are heavy favourites for the league. Arsenal have to deal with being favourites on Sunday in the Carling Cup final. That game will be crucial in shaping the rest of the season. If Arsenal finally lift a trophy for the first time since 2005, they can relax somewhat. They will still want to win every trophy they can, but the pressure will lift and that will give them a better chance.

Defeat is almost unthinkable. If they cannot beat Birmingham, how can they expect to get past Barcelona? To beat Man Utd in the quarter finals of the FA Cup (assuming they eventually get there)? How can they expect to challenge for the title?

If they cannot win this season's League Cup, having been presented with winnable game after winnable game, will they ever win anything?

That is a question everyone will ask if Arsenal lose.

Birmingham have been beaten twice by Arsenal in the league this season. But they have a recent history of denying the Gunners in dramatic circumstances. Kevin Phillips's last gasp fluke last season saw the loss of two points and the dwindling of Arsenal's title hopes. Worse still was the game in 2008 at St. Andrew's: Eduardo's leg break; Gael Clichy falling asleep; the referee pointing to the spot; last minute woe; Gallas's amazing breakdown. The day the title was lost.

Let's hope that this time the woe is Birmingham's.

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