Can Arsenal's keepers make the Grade? Which Pole should be in goal?

By Graham McNorthbank

The team news ahead of tonight's game against Partizan Belgrade is that Manuel Almunia has been elbowed and did not travel. Apparently he sustained the injury in the defeat to West Brom at the weekend. Maybe that explains it.

I'm sure there are those of you out there who are hoping the injury is something serious and that Lukasz Fabianski somehow manages to contract a similar ailment. With a trip to Chelsea looming on Sunday, I'm hoping Almunia recovers quickly because even though he's not the safest pair of hands in the world, unfortunately he's the best we've got for the time being.

Nevertheless, it's good to see that Wojciech Szczesny has been called up for the first team squad that caught the flight to Serbia - perhaps we could yet see him get a run out in the Carling Cup when we face Newcastle United next month. Arsene Wenger rates him as a future No.1, so given our current alternatives it would be good to see the lad getting some pitch time this season.

Talking of the Carling Cup, there's a distinct hint of the competition in the Arsenal party that is in Belgrade tonight, as among the names listed in Le Gaffer's 18 man squad are Jack Wilshere, Johan Djourou, Kieran Gibbs and Henri Lansbury.

I'd love to give you some insight about what to expect from Partizan, but apart from what I can glean from the interweb, I'm a bit clueless about our hosts this evening.

But here's what googlepediabook tells me: Partizan lost 1-0 away to Eduardo's new team Shakhtar Donetsk in their opening Champions League game, but at home they have drawn all three of their previous European Cup games.

Oh, and don't be surprised if we pick up yet another injury or two as apparently Partizan committed more fouls than any other team in the opening round a fortnight ago.

And now for the bad news. According to Opta, the Gunners have won only one of our past nine away games in Europe. What that little stat doesn't tell us is that our away record over the last two seasons away from home is P13, W4, D3, L6, goals for 17, goals against 18. Not exactly encouraging is it?!

However, a win tonight, or indeed against any of our group stage opponents this year, will make history, as Arsenal have never won away from home in Europe against teams from any of the three countries - Serbia, Ukraine and Portugal - that we must travel to.

But now for some optimism.

Le Boss will have hammered it into his players that they need to put in a good performance this evening after Saturday's abject display and I believe we'll do the business in Belgrade.

So of the 18 who travelled I'd expect him to pick the strongest side available and worry about resting legs if we get to a point in the game where, hopefully, we can relax a little.

As much as I'd like to see Szczesny in goal tonight it won't happen so I have to stick with Fabianski, but feel free to disagree when you share your thoughts on who should be in the starting line up.

For the record, here's my Arsenal Addict XI


Sagna Koscielny Squillaci Gibbs

     Eboue Song Wilshere

   Nasri Chamakh Rosicky