Morning all, matchday has arrived as Arsenal look to finish off last week’s excellent work in Istanbul. Arsenal will be looking for a clean sheet, first and foremost, to ensure progress to this season’s Champions League and are more than capable of achieving that. A win would be better, just as the victory at Craven Cottage eased some pressure going into Sunday’s North London Derby so would breaking the season’s duck this evening.
Arsène is adamant that he is not going to rotate the squad tonight and field an entirely inexperienced team to face The Turks, believing that consistency is the key to his decision. The reality is that beyond his first XI, injuries and a failure to act in the transfer market have left him with few options. Zelalem, Sanogo and Akpom will all be on the bench no doubt and among those hoping for an early goal that will settle this tie. Jack Wilshere will return to the side as one of the two changes Wenger is looking at, Laurent Koscielny will be the other to resume his central defensive pairing with Per Mertesacker. Whether Bacary Sagna will return to right back or be rested tonight, remains to be seen but the latter seems unlikely. The other possible change is to bring Nacho Monreal for his first start of the season following his recovery from injury.
Personally, I would add a couple of others to the list of restees, protecting Aaron Ramsey ahead of the weekend by using Emmanuel Frimpong and giving Yaya Sanogo a runout for his home debut. Having Ramsey and Giroud on the bench offers a solution if the evening does not pan out as planned. Whilst not inconceivable, it seems unlikely that Arsenal will be eliminated from the competition this evening. It would require a collapse of gargantuan proportions combined with a dynamism in Fenerbahçe’s performance that was noticeable by its absence in front of their own supporters.
Wenger has suggested that Wilshere might be rested by England for the home game against Moldova next month, an outcome that seems unlikely. Noting that they have good communication with the FA, he knows his desire is not going to happen. Roy Hodgson has a paucity of talent to call on and the Arsenal midfielder represents his best hope for the future, which is Brazil next Summer. Unless there is a real chance that Wilshere will not make the trip to Kyiv for the second match in the double-header, Wenger will have to accept that frankly, international managers do not care about any of the clubs. Hodgson will point to the weekend’s North London Derby that Arsène has said Wilshere will play in if he comes through tonight unscathed, as proof the burden of representing his country is not onerous on the player’s fitness.
Arsène’s decision to field a strong side is admirable and one that I hope he extends to other competitions. For too long, we have treated the domestic cups as secondary whilst looking on at how wins in those tournaments have kept the top three ticking over or in the case of Manchester City, galvanised them for the following season’s Premier League title. There is no guarantee that success will automatically begat success but it has to be worth a try, surely?
Away from the match, it was inevitable that focus turned to the transfer market. Mathieu Flamini seems likely to be another free transfer added to the squad. Dick Law, Transfer Negotiator has reportedly flown into London to meet with Darren Dein, Flamini’s agent. This morning’s Heil! captured the mood unintentionally with its headline, Arsenal use the Law to kick-start their spree as chief negotiator arrives ahead of D-Day. Only at Arsenal could a spree be kicked off by a free transfer. A special recruit indeed.
Elsewhere, The Telegraph believes that it is only a matter of time before Arsenal go back to Newcastle with a revised £15m bid for Yohan Cabaye. With the original bid being made last week, this would be a speedy follow-up by Arsenal and signal the manager’s desire to sign the player. Mind you, we were reportedly going back to Liverpool with a higher bid for Suarez and that never happened so preparing the shovel to attack the salt mountain might be advisable. News that Karim Benzema, Angel di Maria and Mezut Ozil are all being hawked around the Premier League could do with the same dose of cynicism. Curious that they are all players in whom Arsenal are reportedly interested; the timing is just a little too convenient.
Finally, Leyton Orient supporters have organised themselves and are campaigning against the decision to gift West Ham United the use of the Olympic Stadium (which will no doubt become The Ann Summers Stadium). More details on their cause is can be found on their Facebook page.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.