When looking behind to what has come before this League game for Arsenal, I think to the immediate past and what a rough few weeks we have had. Since the start of February we have played Liverpool twice, Man United once and most recently Bayern Munich. Looking ahead, we have Premier League games against Tottenham, Chelsea, and City, not to mention an FA cup tie against Everton and the Champions League return leg against Bayern Munich. I’m out of breath just saying that schedule out loud! This is a daunting spell of games by anyone’s standards. With all over-confidence and arrogance aside, this is a game to rest our key players and hopefully still get the result we so desperately need.
These next two weeks could almost be considered a “break” in our hectic schedule. It is important that Wenger looks to rotate his squad. Tomorrow we line up against lowly Sunderland, who currently sit in the bottom three of the table. I do have a soft spot for them because my fellow America Jozy Altidore is on their books, but the truth is that Nicklas Bendtner has scored more goals than him in less than half the games this campaign. With all due respect we should be able to send out most of our “B” squad and still come away with points.
Some players I hope to see are Serge Gnabry, Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky, and Yaya Sonogo.
Serge Gnabry is a raw talent. Similar in strength and speed to Oxlade-Chamberlin, but being the ripe age of 18 he shows an incredible calmness with the ball at his feet. Tomorrow could be a great opportunity for him to gain valuable experience. You never know, he may even surprise us with a goal or two.
Lukas Podolski is a fan favorite. A player with huge experience with over 100 International caps to his name, but he needs to make the most of the time he’s given on the pitch. It seems like since he’s gotten to Arsenal, he’s failed to complete a 90 minute game. Surely not by his own design, but you can see that around the 70 minute mark his impact on the game seems to dwindle. He’s been sat on the bench for most of the big games this season, but that doesn’t mean he can’t change a game himself. He played a great game against Liverpool in the FA cup last weekend and needs to show his worth again tomorrow if he gets the starting nod.
Tomas Rosicky has been one of my favorite players over the last year and a half. Somehow, at the age of 33, he still runs around like he is 23. He can be deployed on the wing or in central midfield and can have a positive effect on the game in either position. He can make driving runs through the middle of the park and has the vision and technical ability to find a killer pass and create a goal scoring opportunity. His work rate off the ball has been helpful to our defensive play as well. He has been rotated regularly and only came on as a sub against Bayern on Wednesday, so he should be fresh and ready to go for tomorrow’s game.
Last but certainly not least is Yaya Sonogo. Rapidly becoming a fan favorite, he is starting to have a positive impact on our season. Unfortunately our number 1 striker, Olivier Giroud, is not as good of a husband as he is a soccer player and therefor has not been playing. Wenger has done his best (as he always does) to give us some excuse as to why he’s not playing, but with his personal life in shambles it will be hard for him to have a clear mind on the pitch.
There is a chance Wenger lets Giroud back in this game, but if not, I’d like the chance to see the continued progress of Sonogo. Having been out through injury most of the season, It was a shock to see him inserted into the line-up when we played Liverpool last Saturday. Anxiously biting my finger nails at my local pub before the game I immediately questioned how this decision could be made to play him instead of Giroud up front. Those doubts were put to rest very quickly. He looked the part of an experienced player. His frame and technical ability allowed him to hold the ball up well, but his raw athleticism and speed allowed him to make runs in and behind the defense as well. He’s a tall target for crosses and isn’t afraid to strike a ball from anywhere inside the attacking 1/3rd of the field. If he plays, I hope tomorrow’s game provides him with an opportunity to get his first Premier League Goal.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Wenger has 1 or 2 more surprise rotations up his sleeve. We may see a Gideon Zelalem or even the lost hero named Thomas Vermaelen (I certainly hope not on this one). Hopefully Wenger will see this “break” in our schedule as a time to rotate some fresh legs into the squad. We have enough experience and quality on the bench to do so and still play our game. Either way, not getting 3 points from this game would be devastating so let’s hope Arsenal’s “B” squad is up to the task.