By Graham McNorthbank
Arsene Wenger yesterday revealed that Cesc Fabregas has less than a 50:50 chance to regain full fitness ahead of Sunday afternoon's trip to Stamford Bridge, but is including him a gamble worth taking?
Personally I reckon that even if he's not fully fit, it's at least worth giving him a place in the squad given that there's a two week break before our next game, although in saying that, if it's a case of his hamstring not being completely mended, I'll take that back. But if it's a case of lack of match fitness, put him in the squad and give him 45 minutes.
There's no doubt in my mind that on Sunday we're up against the strongest team in the Premier League this season, but if the Arsenal can play to anywhere near their full potential, then a repeat of two seasons ago when we took all three points from the Bridge is infinitely possible.
Of course that victory was down to a brace of Robin van Persie strikes and our brittle Dutch maestro is still on the sidelines, so just who will Le Gaffer rely on to do the business this weekend?
In goal I just can't see Wenger dropping Lukasz Fabianski after his heroics midweek against Partizan Belgrade. Manuel Almunia apparenly hasn't trained all week and with one of our goalies now having that all too rare commodity of confidence, I'm hoping Fabianski retains his place and is on the start of a great run that will see him defy the critics.
In defence I'd like to see Kieran Gibbs keeping his place in the team, but I reckon Wenger will opt for Gael Clichy's experience, even though the Frenchman's form has not been up to his usual standards. In the middle, with Thomas Vermaelen ruled out, it has to be Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny for me to try to keep Didier Drogba quiet, while at right back Bacary Sagna will be the first choice.
Assuming Cesc Fabregas doesn't start, I think the midfield will consist of Alex Song in the DM role, Jack Wilshere, and Denilson. But I have a feeling that the skipper will be risked, so I'd expect Wilshere to be on the bench at the start of the game.
And up front, Marouane Chamakh supported by Samir Nasri and Andrey Arshavin is actually the only choice I can think of with the current squad of fit players, with Carlos Vela, Tomas Rosicky and maybe Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on the bench.
I may be completely wrong on Cesc and of course I don't want him to be out for any extended period, but if he's anywhere close to fitness I think it's worth the risk to play him on Sunday. Chelsea away is one of our biggest games of the season, we have two weeks off before our next game and, no disrespect to Birmingham, but I think we're equipped to take them on at the Emirates should Cesc aggravate his hamstring.
Feel free to disagree and share your thoughts on who our starting 11 should be against Chelsea by using our comments section below.
For the record, here's my Addict XI:
Sagna Koscielny Squillaci Clichy
Nasri Chamakh Arshavin