By Graham McNorthbank
Our old friend Tony Pulis brings his hurling champions Stoke to Emirates tomorrow night determined to throw a spanner in the works of Arsenal’s challenge for Premier League honours.
The Potters will call on the likes of Ryan “He’s not that kind of player” Shawcross to bring his own brand of special skills to try to thwart the Gunners from playing what you and I refer to as football, as Arsene Wenger attempts to secure three points to keep the pressure on Man United at the top of the table.
But with the threat of injury facing our players with every mistimed lunge by Shawcross and co, should Le Gaffer be considering resting any of our first 11 ahead of our date at Wembley on Sunday?
Personally, I think not.
I’m a believer in starting with your strongest 11 and then substituting key players only once there’s a significant cushion, but as we recently witnessed at Newcastle, sometimes there’s no such thing as a reliable lead to bank on.
Indeed, I’m hoping that Le Boss will use tomorrow night’s game to provide his squad with the chance to win a place in the starting line-up for the Carling Cup final, challenging key fringe players to step it up in training to win a place in the squad for both the Stoke game and Sunday’s clash with Birmingham.
Players such as Tomas Rosicky, Kieran Gibbs, Emmanuel Eboue, Marouane Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtne, Abou Diaby (who is suspended for the Stoke game) and Denilson need to find their form to be in with a chance of a starting place, as does Andrey Arshavin, even though he’s been playing a lot better of late. But with Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott all fit, the little Russian is currently behind those three in the pecking order.
As for Nicklas Bendtner, his continual threats that he’ll quit if he doesn’t get more game time doesn’t work for me, I’m afraid. What he’s basically saying is he wants to go to a team that’s worse than Arsenal, where the strikers aren’t as good and therefore he’ll be a first 11 choice. Prove that you’re not just the best player in your head, Nicklas, and you’ll not only get your chance at Arsenal, but you’ll become a hero at the same time.
We’ll do a more comprehensive look at who should start against Stoke in the hours leading up to the game tomorrow, but if you lot reckon any of our star players – Cesc Fabregas, RvP, Theo, Nasri, Jack Wilshere – or anyone else you care to think of should be rested tomorrow, then share your thoughts here or forever hold your peace, well, until tomorrow at least.