You see that big Belgian nutter up there?
That's right - nine months after that puzzling Achilles injury was first sustained, Thomas Vermaelen is back in a senior Arsenal squad.
Last week he made an impressive return to football in a reserve game against Manchester United at Old Trafford; you can see pretty much all of his involvements here. It hadn't been expected that we would see Thomas back this season after a lot of confusion over his fitness. His return radically changed every few weeks - he went from returning soon to out indefinitely nearly every time Wenger was asked about him.
Now though he is well and truly back, and with the injury to Johan Djourou possibly keeping the Swiss centre-half out of the Stoke game, Vermaelen looks likely to start. The other option in Djourou's absence would be to pair Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny together in the centre of defence. While individually they're both pretty good defenders, together they have been an absolute disaster. Since they were unable to cope with Newcastle's limited aerial threat, playing them together against the Kenwyne Jones' and Robert Huths of Stoke would be a big mistake in my opinion.
Squillaci has had some success alongside Djourou, but I don't think he's suited to our style of play. Similar to the likes of Vidic and Hangeland, he's a solid defender, but struggles against pace, or generally when playing in a high line. Sadly for Seb that's the defensive system we employ, so he gets caught out of a few times. I think he gets perhaps a bit of a harsh assessment from Gooners, but a lot of us look for scapegoats and targetted Squillaci, just like Denilson, Eboue and Bendtner had been previously.
Speaking of Bendtner, I've been meaning to talk about him and today brings the perfect opportunity. As well as this being the fixture when he scored a beautiful header during his excellent scoring run last season, Arsene has recently said that he wants to keep the big Dane - unlike a lot of Arsenal fans.
As I just mentioned, Nicklas had a superb run in the team when given a chance last season, and scored something like nine goals in eleven games. For a player who gets so much criticism, that's a big statistic - you can write stats off as much as you want but it's difficult to write that one off. He kept us in the title race with vital goals against Stoke, Hull and Wolves - two of those being last minute winners - plus some more.
He'll always have a place in my heart, as his last minute winner against Wolves gave me an experience I'll never forget. I was at that game, and it ranks up there with the Barcelona win, which I was also at - remember I'm only a youngster so I don't remember WHL 04, let alone WHL 71!
That run of goals from Bendtner gave us a huge chance at the title, only for us to blow it in the end (through no fault of his, might I add). I can't remember many times other than that when he's had a consistent run in the team, and it's so much easier to play well when you're playing regularly. Just ask Lukasz Fabianski. His performances were dodgy and error-strewn until he got a run in the team this season, and he was superb. Maybe it's different for goalkeepers, but I feel the same principles apply.
To sum up, I think we should keep Bendtner, as I think he offers something to the squad, and there are quite a few who contribute a lot less than the big man. As I said earlier in the week, what we need to do is add to the squad, while getting rid of the deadwood, not selling players that still have a role to play here.
That point was made about our captain, when I was explaining why people are silly to demand that we sell him. Well, according to this post on arsenalfanblog, they're going to get their wish. Apparently Real have had a €45 million offer accepted by the club, but Cesc will turn them down in favour for Barcelona, who look set to be lining up a similar bid of their own. More updates will likely follow on that site, so I guess we'll see.
Finally, returning to the injury front, Diaby, Nasri and Cesc are definitely out. There's a suggestion that Cesc's injury is fake, with information circulating from sources "within the club". I myself have no sources, but if the reason given (Arsene being unhappy with the recent interview) is true, I'm a little confused, as it's a bit of a late backlash surely? Still, I suppose we will probably never know for sure, but I'd probably say it was a genuine thigh injury.
As for Nasri, he announced on Twitter that he'll be out for between 10 days and two weeks. That means he has an outside chance for Aston Villa next week, as Arsene confirmed, and should return for Fulham on the last day, which I'm hoping to get down to Craven Cottage for.
Ramsey should deputise for Cesc again at the ground where he broke his leg back in February of last year. If there are any mental hurdles he didn't overcome with that goal against United, I'm sure he'll leap right over them if he gets through this game unscathed. Neither team has much to play for right now, so it shouldn't be too physical a game, but you never know, as Stoke are a bunch of complete and utter.... cavemen.
That's it from me today, if you'll excuse me I have some poetry to write about. Joy... And just before I go, I hit 2,000 views today - thanks to all who have clicked, and I hope you continue to do so! Au revoir.