So, Javier Mascherano has had his one match ban extended to three matches – plus a Â£15,000 fine. While the ban itself was expected, although arguably not merited, from an overall perspective I feel it could well be a blessing in digsuise.
Mascherano would have been our player of the season had it not been for the incredible form of Torres and has been our most consistent performer all season long. But with Lucas having been slowly introduced and groomed to the English game to good effect this season it means we have a good replacement in the Brazilian to anchor the midfield alongside Alonso – just as the two of them did against Everton. This means im confident Lucas can now do the job when Masch. is missing in the league fixtures.
European football always requires a player in the Mascherano role to excel in order for succcess, just as Didi Hamann so often did during the Uefa Cup run in 2001 and again in the Champions League success of 2005. With Europe now key on our agenda for the rest of the season, Mascherano’s ban allows him to come into these quarter finals with Arsenal fit, fresh and literally chomping at the bit. Our midfield terrier is also hugely important to stop the likes of Fabregas and Hleb breaking from midfield.
It’s funny that for most of the season fans and pundits have moaned at Rafa’s rotation policy, only for the gaffer to quit the rotation in the wake of the Barnsley defeat and now it will be very interesting to see if he does rotate on Saturday. Me personally ive never blamed the rotation in the past – others do it more than Rafa but don’t get the same stick – and sincerely hope he does rotate at the Emirates.
A change of system would not be beneficial so keep with the 4-2-3-1 which has been succesful over the last two months and will no doubt be adopted at Anfield next Tuesday again, but allow for some fresh legs to be brought and, maybe most importantly, time for key players to be rested ahead of the return leg. I wouldn’t say to make wholesale changes but the obvious one for me is Torres to allow Crouch to lead the line and give the Arsenal defence a different type of problem. Play him up top with Gerrard still in behind, just as the two did in the league meeting at Anfield last season when Crouchie hit a hat trick.
Kuyt, Babel, Hyypia and Aurelio would be the others I’d ‘rest’, bringing in Pennant, Benayoun, Arbeloa and Riise respectively, with Lucas covering Mascherano in the middle alongside Alonso.
Here’s hoping rotation leads the way to Moscow…