There are enough cliché’s in football. “There are no easy games in the premier league” is one such. If you can, by some great inner resolve, ignore that then the first home game of the season is perhaps as easy as it can get. Portsmouth are struggling both on and off the pitch.
They are not a bad team, no pushovers certainly. So what is an easy game? I prefer to define an easy game as one where Arsenal decide the result. If we play well we win, if not then we draw or lose. Whether we draw or lose would also be down to the other team but it is contingent to us being poor on the day.
I ask myself, can our carling cup team beat this Portsmouth side? The answer is, why not. They did beat Wigan last year. That doesn’t mean Wenger should send the carling cup kids out for this game. Some members of that team aren’t available right now anyway.
But this is the kind of game where we need to show the depth in the squad. Not on paper but on the pitch. Portsmouth have started both their games with a back four of Wilson, Kabout, Distin and Belhadj supported by a midfield of Mullins, Mokoena, Diop and Krancjar. With James in goal and Piquionne upfront, 10 of the 11 players have been the same in both their games. Utaka and Vanden Borre starting one game each. If you look at their bench, there isn’t anything special there except perhaps a cameo from Kanu.
It is clear that they will be more defensively oriented than either Everton or Celtic. But they will also have lesser threat at the other end. This game will also be more physical than the previous two. So what can Le Boss do?
There are two options. First would be to go with the same starting line up as the first two games, score a couple of goals in the first half and rest three players. The problem is what happens if the goals don’t come?
The second would be to start with Cesc, RvP and Song on the bench and have Eboue, Eduardo, Diaby or Ramsey take their place. At present, the squad is light. Injuries have taken their toll and the bench doesn’t have any other options. This is also why it’s imperative to avoid any further casualties, especially, with the Celtic game and the trips to Manchester coming up.
I chose Cesc and Song because they seem to have worked the hardest. They are also the most important central players we have. Arshavin needs a strong performance after a couple of ordinary outings by his standards. Bendtner is gaining confidence and winning over the crowds. They both need to play. Unfortunately, neither of the center backs can be rested. Hopefully they will just have a relaxing stroll in the park.
In the past, I have felt that Wenger has been guilty of not rotating enough on such occasions. To some extent our injury problems are down to that as well. Let’s hope this season is different. Here’s to three well rested points…