Dortmund arrive at The Emirates for a meaningless Champions League fixture, the presumption being they will oblige Jurgen Klopp’s career plan with a defeat. It’s a shame they are playing Arsenal’s reserves or at least they will be by the time Arsène has made his final substitution with the medical centre busier than the training pitches once more.
Despite Arsène noting that Jack Wilshere’s situation would not be truly known until next week, forcible assertions are being made that he is out for three months – it’s the new three weeks – which, if true, is a huge blow. Wojciech Szczesny is out for this evening so Damian Martinez will deputise although the Pole may return for the weekend’s trip to The Hawthorns. Theo Walcott returned from international duty with a groin strain even though he didn’t play whilst Danny Welbeck is doubtful. As if. Olivier Giroud’s omission from the squad saw to that.
But it isn’t all gloom and despair, no Sir; Laurent Koscielny is back and in no way should you worry that he is being rushed. No; don’t do that, it isn’t good for your health. Besides, I’ll do enough of that for us all.
Koscielny’s return is positive for tonight and God knows we need some good news, something to put a zing back into everyone’s stride. Arsenal have an abysmal home record against German sides in recent seasons; all four since the 2 – 1 win over tonight’s opponents have ended in defeat with the tactical naïvety that has been the hallmark of this season, ruthlessly exposed by Bayern, Schalke and Dortmund.
That record has to change tonight with defeat making the trip to Istanbul a Europa League decider, assuming either of Galatasaray or Anderlecht win in Brussels tonight. Should their match end in a draw, Arsenal will have stumbled into the next round irrespective of their own efforts. Of course, Arsenal can get there with a victory themselves but it just seems as improbable as Dortmund struggling in the Bündesliga and being undefeated in the Champions League.
Arsène offered a robust response to his critics yesterday although it’s hard to miss Alisher Usmanov from any range. The Uzbek was left in no uncertain terms that as a significant investor in the club, he should voice his criticisms behind closed doors. Presumably those are not the same doors which KSE slam in his face.
There is only one solution to the current malaise on and off the pitch; getting back to winning ways and having lost to United at the weekend, victory this evening would provide an enormous boost. It’s a big game and the squad’s failings in these fixtures down the years are well-documented; winning serves a psychological purpose for the players as well as supporters. The reverse holds true as well.
Of course this evening will be dominated by chatter about the two managers, the emporer and the heir apparent. Being the latter comes with pressures of its own. Jurgen Klopp, the spurious logic goes, is nowhere near good enough to replace Arsène because his side are sixteenth domestically. This is the same Dortmund side that were a country mile better in Germany when these two sides met in the opening group game.
Presumably those who believe this season proof that Klopp is not good enough now would have been up in arms about Wenger’s appointment in the first place, coming after his dismissal by Monaco as they sat seventeenth in Ligue Un followed by a spell in Japan; it’s not the credentials of an Arsenal manager. Actually, it probably was, more so than the likes of Venables, Robson or Cruyff – mentioned at the time – who all had proven track records elsewhere.
As with players, you cannot tell how a manager will perform in a different club; different assets to deploy, a different league, different tactics. Success at one club is relative compared to success at another; the same holds true for failure.
So to this evening. The only real choice is who replaces Jack. I presume Danny Welbeck will be fit although it would probably mean Alexis playing up front rather than starting with Yaya Sanogo, if he isn’t. Ordinarily, slotting Aaron Ramsey into the deeper role would open a slot for Cazorla but these are not ordinary times. Tomas Rosicky would be my personal choice as Wilshere’s alternate, pushing Alexis to the wider position.
It’s not that simple though; Lukas Podolski is equally unpopular with the manager and there is of course, Joel Campbell. OK, so I jest about Campbell. Despite his increasing popularity, Arsène doesn’t rate the player. Or that’s how it seems anyway. He can’t suddenly have ‘gone off’ Rosicky either but the Czech is no closer to the starting XI. Wenger has stuck by his players through thick and thin, they need to repay that loyalty with performances. Whether he should have done so is another matter.
The line-up Arsène will probably go with is
Flamini could come in of course, it depends on whether Arsenè believes his compatriot will offer any more defensive protection (he won’t) than omitting him. Did I say defence? If we had one, it would be nice. At the moment, we have four strangers playing alongside each other, of which I hasten to add, the makeshift centre back, Nacho Monreal, has been the most consistent performer.
Per Mertesacker’s standards are high and this season he has slipped well below them. He mentioned in a recent interview that motivation post-World Cup glory was hard; missing Laurent Koscielny has been harder on him. It was one of the safest pairings in the English game but that should not mean the French international is rushed back. Only a week or so ago, there was no indication from the manager of a return date but suddenly he is in tonight’s squad. That doesn’t mean he is going to play, far from it, but Arsenal are notorious for making such decisions only to be left ruing them soon afterwards.
Leave him as a substitute Arsène, unused unless absolutely necessary; there is still one more group game to go.
From The Vaults
Not a lot to be said about this one beyond a repeat wouldn’t go amiss! Dortmund’s first trip to London to play Arsenal in a competitive fixture and this is how The Guardian reported the victory.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.
(click to enlarge)