01 May 2006

Sunday Wrap-Up

Good morning, folks, and I hope the weekend treated you well. Unfortunately it wasn't great for the Arsenal as Tottenham 1-0 Bolton was the scoreline. I haven't seen the match, but evidently it was a near thing, particularly with a late penalty shout for Bolton. So things look grim for the Gunners' quest for fourth place. West Ham are Spurs remaining opponents, and the Hammers will rest players for the FA Cup final. But there's still a game to be played; we'll see what happens.

But even if Spurs win out, they miss Champions League play if Arsenal win the Champions League final. After last years' debacle, UEFA clarified the rules so that the winner is entered next year, regardless of where they finish in their league. Of course, at this stage that would bump Tottenham into the UEFA Cup. Of course, Martin Jol is agitating for a change; after all, that worked for Liverpool last year. I can understand where he's coming from... but after last year, things are rather clear. And it makes the Champions League even sweeter to know that a victory would cause Tottenham that much more pain.

In other Sunday news, it appears that Wayne Rooney has a broken metatarsal and is unavailable for six weeks -- coincidentally, the amount of time left before the World Cup finals start. This presents Sven-Goran Eriksson a real dilemma as he has to name his squad by 15 May. It seems that he's inclined to include Rooney on the team, gambling on his quick return to health. Let's hope he's right. Whether you're an England supporter or a neutral, you'll enjoy the matches better with Rooney on the field.

For Arsenal it's going to be a busy week: a visit to Sunderland today; a trip to City of Manchester stadium on Thursday, and then the final Highbury game on Sunday against Wigan. Obviously Arsenal have to win all three to keep the hope for fourth place alive, yet with such a schedule a rotating squad is a necessity.

Sunderland present perhaps the easiest target, yet it's also the easiest day to use the first-team players. There are plenty who are missing the match today due to injury; Arsenal are reporting that Gilberto, Mathieu Flamini, Jose Antonio Reyes, Theo Walcott and Philippe Senderos will all be unavailable, while Aleksander Hleb is doubtful. We'll see what kind of lineups Arsène Wenger has up his sleeves; it should be interesting if a bit unsettling. But whoever Wenger chooses today, a win can be all that we expect. Sunderland are frankly woeful; their home record stands at 0-4-13. Arsenal just can't be the first team to lose at the Stadium Of Light this year, no matter who's in the squad. So let's see some effort from the boys. COME ON YOU GUNNERS!

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