Weekend Preview: Escape From The Planet of the Zzzzz, and Birmingham: The Search for Closure

Can you feel it?

It's the end of the international break. IT'S FINALLY FUCKING OVER!!! And it's a fantastic feeling. It's like a little bit of freedom, a little bit of joy, a little bit of laughter, and a little bit of excitement. Taken all together, that makes for a whole lot of froyaughment. And froyaughment rocks.

Over the course of the last week/decade/weekade, we've seen some laughter, some tears (from laughter), and some facial hair. I kinda grew a beard. I'm not sure if I'm keeping it. It's going to be a game-time decision.

Also a game-time decision is the availability of Manuel Almunia, who has been out since the defeat at Man City due to some sort of chest infection. Which has to be the baddest-ass chest infection I can remember hearing about. That was a whole damn month ago. This guy recovered faster than that. Now, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that the severity of Manuel's injury/infection/infecjury was, shall we say "enhanced" in the eyes of the manager by the outstanding play of Don Vito Mannone. But currently, Arsene is rating Almunia's chances as 50/50. Definitely back from injury is another 'keeper, Lucasz Fabianski, who has recovered from knee surgery and will likely start if Almunia is unable to go. I generally side with Arsene in his judgments regarding players, but I would like to point out that I have seen Fabianski put in a number of shaky performances, while outside of the first 5 minutes of the Standard Liege match, Vito has been anything but. Just some food for thought. Lastly, it appears that Gael Clichy will miss out on the match, meaning Kieran Gibbs is expected to make his first Premiership start of the season, so good luck to Gibbsy.

I know that among you there are a few fans of US Soccer, so there is one bit of non-proper-football-related news (would that be considered improper football?), and that is the status of US striker Charlie Davies. Davies has been one of the most consistently in-form players for the US during World Cup qualifying, but on Wednesday the story broke that he was involved in a one-car accident that killed one female passenger and required the jaws of life to extract Davies and the driver, another female. Davies was treated for a broken tibia and femur, elbow and facial fractures, and lacerated bladder. The latest news on Davies condition is quite positive:

“Injuries of this nature usually require a recovery period of six to 12 months and extensive rehabilitation,” said U.S. Soccer physician Dr. Dan Kalbac, who is with the team in D.C. and collaborated with the treating doctors. ”Due to Charlie’s fitness level, his prognosis for recovery and his ability to resume high-level competition is substantially improved.”

Obviously, we wish Charlie a speedy recovery, and I'm sure all US fans will hope the team will cope with his absence in the World Cup, as the team clinched a berth in South Africa this week.

And we come to this week's Celebrity Pick 'Em. You may know him as the man behind the balloon-boy controversy in Colorado, or possibly from his role Tessio in The Godfather. Or you may not, as he was not involved in either of those things. I know him as a USA and Fulham fan, Arsenal admirer, raconteur and man-about-town, my friend, Matthew Califano. Matt, let's have those picks!

Aston Villa v Chelsea

PREDICTION: Villans 2- Chelski 2

Synopsis: Gabby Abongalahor has been on hot form… I still think that Chelski takes an early lead in this game, but a controversial penalty call goes Villas way when Bosingwa’s uni-brow trips up Gabby in the box.

Arsenal v Birmingham

PREDICTION: Arsenal 4-0 Birmingham

Synopsis: Eduardo scores 2 and Vermalen breaks Martin Taylor’s leg. Eduardo buys him a drink and Alex McLeish is last seen standing on the touch line yelling “KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!”

Everton v Wolves

PREDICTION: Everton 2-0 Wolves

Synopsis: After a slow start Scousers-blue is on hot form and everyone knows that Wolves don’t have big enough feet to successfully kick a soccer ball. Even if they have 4 of them.

Man Utd v Bolton

PREDICTION: Man U 3-0 Bolton

Synopsis: Come on asteroid, come on asteroid!!!

Portsmouth v Tottenham

PREDICTION: Pompey 1-3 Tottenham

Synopsis: Jermaine Defoe takes advantage of a frightened and weakened Pompey back line, chains them to a radiator, and grapes them… Jokes on Jermaine though because Tal Ben-Haim has super-AIDS.

Stoke City v West Ham

PREDICTION: Stoke 1-1 Hammers

Synopsis: Christ, I couldn’t possibly care less about this game. All I know about these two teams is that Rory Delap has a howitzer for a throw, and West Ham fans have plain ol’ regular howitzers that they like to shoot at Millwall supporters.

Sunderland v Liverpool

PREDICTION: Black Cats 2-2 Scousers

Synopsis: This has upset special written all over it. Sunderland has been playing well this year and Darren Bent has been on fire since he left that insipid cess-pool known as White Hart Lane . Liverpool is without both Torres and Gerrard due to injuries… yet I still don’t have enough balls to pick the Black Cats for the out-right win.

Blackburn v Burnley

PREDICTION: Blackburn 2-1 Clarets

Synopsis: Holy shit! A game that I care less about then Stoke City vs. West Ham! I didn’t even think that was possible! Strike up the band!

Wigan v Man City

PREDICTION: Wigan 1-3 Shitty

Synopsis: Which Wigan team shows up… the one that beat Chelsea 3-1 or lost to Hull City 1-2? I’m gonna say that it’s the one that lost to Hull … The rocks of their D and Midfield both play for Honduras , and they’ll both probably still be hungover after Los Catrachos clinched their first World Cup berth since 1982.

Fulham v Hull City

PREDICTION: Fool-Ham 2-1 Hull

Synopsis: The battle of Americans on shitty teams. Being one who supports the Whites and hates the orange (I am of course referring to Phil Brown’s fake tan) I can’t in good conscience pick a win for Hull City.

Thanks of course to Matt for helping out, I couldn't have done better myself. It just goes to show you that Fulham supporters, though slow-witted and somewhat girlish, can still provide a valuable service on occasion.

Finally, I give you my take on Arsenal v Birmingham this Saturday. With Eduardo and Martin Taylor both missing this match due to injury (no disrepect to Matt, as Arsenal injury news rarely appears in Fulham news circles), much of the drama of this match is stripped away, but I do feel that, for Arsenal fans and I imagine for any players who were involved in the Eduardo match, there is some unfinished business between these sides. Now of course this is not the same Birmingham side that we faced that fateful day in January 2008; there is always a great turnover in a side that goes through the relegation-promotion yo-yo. And without the great villain Taylor involved, fans won't have any particular player towards whom to direct their pent-up bile. But I expect that William Gallas will be more than a bit fired-up for this one.

If I was a betting man, and I am, but living in a country founded by puritans that England kicked out for being too prudish and religiousy (thanks England!), I'd put money down on Willy G popping up with a goal in this one. Arsenal, being on a good run of form and at home with something even more than points to play for, should take this one.

My Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Birmingham.

That's all I have for this week, y'all, especially seeing as we're just exiting the Wasteland of the International break. But I hope to see as many Gooners at Nevadas as can get there on Saturday. It's been a long time without my Arsenal, and that first Gunner goal I expect to feel cathartic, just as a win over Birmingham would. There is plenty that's left unresolved for me as a fan, so I'm looking for three Arsenal points tomorrow, and a bit of closure to boot.

We unfortunately will not have the new t-shirt designs in due to a delay with the printers, but we will definitely have them the following week for our match against West Ham. If you've pre-ordered, expect them then.

By the way, when you get a chance, take some time to read this post at the Online Gooner by N5's own Gareth Baldwin. Well done GB, and we can't wait for you to start contributing here at TMG in the future.

Until next time, you stay classy, Gooner nation.

- B, a Gooner.