Much is made of today’s game being a Cup Final. It is. A one off game which will determine who goes into the CL group stages.
Unusually the away side are slight favourites given the away goals rule but first they have to score. Can they? Well, we have conceded 3 in our last 2 games and were hardly secure in Turkey where Ba missed a couple of easy chances (or TPIG made a couple of excellent saves). And this Arsenal team have yet to show us that they have developed the fluency we have come to expect.
Then there are the injuries. We have played 3 games and lost a player a game; Arteta, Gibbs and Giroud and given that Koscielny, BFG, Ozil, Podolski and Wilshere look less than 100% we are struggling. I have no doubts we will come good later in the year but right now there is cause for concern.
Much is made of CL qualification as the carrot to ensnare new signing, I don’t completely agree. MU, Spurs, Everton and L’pool have shown this is not true. What attracts players is money (or in Balotelli’s case a team which will accept his “difficulties”). Did Di Maria move for CL games and the resultant profile? That said, qualification allows us to earn the bug bucks which attract the best players and as I have repeatedly written – I want Cavani, Carvalho (or at least an agreement that he will sign next summer when Arteta and Flamini leave) and a CB, all of whom will be expensive.
The loss of Giroud must be seen as an opportunity for the players who will take his place yet Sanogo looks way off the required quality to win anything (though he has an FAC medal 🙂 ), and Campbell has yet to start a PL game. Sanchez is likely to get the chance tonight, he scored 39 in 88 games for Barca so knows his way to goal.
Just as interesting to me is how Wilshere will play without the need to look for Ramsey. We have discussed at length whether the two can play together and tonight we will see if JW can influence the game in the way we hope. He will need to – Ramsey has scored in 5 of his last 6 games and will be sorely missed tonight.
Mr. Wenger is “bigging up” Oxlade-Chamberlain, I wonder why. Does he think O-C needs a confidence boost? He appears to be a man brimful of self-belief. Or perhaps he wanted someone who is comfortable talking to the media so he could take a rest. Either way it gave us another insight into what a lovely man Ox is – Southampton must be the best place to develop well-balanced, intelligent young players.
We know how good Besiktas are. We were fortunate to escape with a draw, thanks to fine work from TPIG and strikers who couldn’t find the target even when one on one with our keeper. They work hard in midfield, defend well and are pacy on the counter. I can only recall Ox’s shot which was well saved by their keeper as good chances created by the Arsenal. We could blame the dreadful pitch but it was the same for both teams.
As we are without the experience of Arteta and Ramsey I would like to see Chambers on the bench and a return to the security of BFG/Kos, though given the total lack of pace from Mertesacker in the Everton game perhaps Chambers and Koscielny will be our centre back partnership this season!
Flamini’s role will be vital in a clogged midfield. He is playing in his normal style so far – two games, two yellows. Hopefully Arteta will return before he picks up his first ban.
So … no Sanogo. I just do not think we can go into such an important game with Sanogo leading the line. Mr Wenger is likely to disagree but I would put my faith in experienced battle-hardened players who have performed at the highest level. All the above team have done so and experience counts.
In the highly unlikely event that we are in trouble he can come off the bench and perhaps have a similar effect to Giroud at Everton, though I hope he only comes on for the final 15 when we are coasting.
History shows that we do well in these games, A good defensive display and some luck in front of goal should see us through but please Arsenal score early, otherwise the tension will be unbearable.
Quiz Question: How many consecutive seasons have we qualified for the Champions League proper?
written by Big Raddy