Zagreb. Champions League. Away game in delightful Croatia. Winnable? Why not?
This is why we celebrate finishing in the Top 4 and yet there seems to be a bit of “so what” about this game. You know what I mean – I bet you are thinking “well, it is great to have an Arsenal game on the tele tonight, but win, lose or draw we are going out in the next round so does it really matter?” Come on …. you know you think that way!! Another viewpoint might be – and we have already seen comments confirming this – that the game at the weekend is more important as such we should play a weakened team full of (quality) squad members.
And yet, as I said before, this is what we strive for – a mid-week night game against a League winning team (unbeaten in 42 games), so let’s celebrate and remember we could be playing on Spursday 🙂
I know nothing about Dynamo Zagreb. A little research shows the club have won the Croatian League 10 years running, that they have a 35k capacity ground, that they have produced some fine players including Corluka, Modric, Dejan Lovren, Mario Mandvukic and the much loved ex-AFC player and Crozillian, Eduardo. They managed just one point in the CL group stages last season with a minus 13 goal difference.
The players focus may be diverted by the fact that DZ’s manager and CEO are out on bail having been accused of embezzling €11m from the club and tax-man!
Eduardo is still in the squad and could play tonight.
On paper we should win this tie, DZ’s highest paid player earns less in a year than Ozil does in 3 weeks (true!) but it doesn’t work like that does it? Hard work, a partisan and passionate crowd and an opportunity to impress managers in the Big Leagues will drive the Zagreb players – we need to be careful.
What of our team? Who should play? Well, I have absolutely no idea. I cannot even say with any certainty that Cech will start ahead of Ospina (who is a fine deputy). Ramsey, BFG and Bellerin are out, I expect Kos and Gabriel to be our CB’s. Ozil and Sanchez could get 70 minutes but beyond them …… ???
Monreal or Gibbs? Gibbs has done nothing wrong and deserves a start, should it be here or at Stamford Bridge? Same goes for Debuchy, Arteta, Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain, even Flamini.
Perhaps AW will give Joel Campbell a run though it would preclude him being sold to any club remaining in the CL in January. Given Theo’s start last Saturday and the expectation that he will play centrally at Stamford Bridge I believe Giroud will start tonight.
Here is my punt:
Debuchy Gabriel Koscielny Gibbs
Ox Coquelin Cazorla
Wouldn’t put LB’s sofa on it though.
We should win this game, we are better all over the pitch and we are good away from home.
I am 71% confident.