The stuttering performances by English clubs in European competition continued last night with both Manchester City and Chelsea improving their results from Matchday 1 but nothing else. City it seems, were architects of their own downfall with their social media team putting “anti” into that phrase by taunting Totti before the game. He duly scored his first goal in England to earn a point for his club. Top banter by the City Tweeps indeed. Being Arsenal, I expect a better everything than we got from the trip to Dortmund. It is hard to see how it can be worse, that two-goal margin of defeat should have been at least double such was the paucity of the performance. Too many were off-key and Dortmund executed their gameplan to the letter. A one-off? No, I don’t think so but that was then, this is now.
Talking to the media, Arsène was strangely subdued about this season’s prospects in a tournament he rates second on his priority list. He was, he said, more concerned with realising this teams’ potential. Quite right too although the injury list is becoming so extensive that the potential may remain hidden for some time yet. Better news on that front with Theo Walcott rejoining training next week. I am sure that it is entirely coincidental that Walcott returns too late for Roy Hodgson to select him for international duty.
Wenger noted that whilst the man on the street might believe one of four teams will win the trophy, his first target was to progress through the group stage. Priorities are subjective and should be flexible. Europe remains his Achilles Heel and is likely to do so until he retires. Quite simply, for that to happen it would take the sort of alignment in the stars usually reserved for the birth of a messiah. It won’t happen, Arsenal are too readily nullified and susceptible to highly pressurised football from their opponents once the knockout stages are reached. If happens in groups as well as successive German sides have proven in recent years.
It goes back to the point I’ve made previously; domestic competitions seem more of a realistic target than winning the Champions League so should be prioritised higher than it. Targets need to be challenging but also achievable. Arsenal may have progressed to the knockout phase for the last fourteen seasons but we are hardly regular participants in the last eight, let along last four. The bookies views and odds on Arsenal’s chances fully reflect that and not usually wrong.
As Arsène says, it’s a different world now and the unlikely success of the run to Paris in 2006 remains more of an anomaly as the years pass.
Tonight’s team picks itself; there are so few fit in midfield that Arsène’s team news was a roll-call at the medical centre. Ramsey and Arteta are out for a month, more or less, whilst Diaby is still lingering in the background, never quite there to the extent where the poor lad must wonder where there is as it seems to keep moving further away from him all the time.
It means that Wenger’s only real choice is whether Tomas Rosicky or Francis Coquelin starts; I am assuming Mathieu Flamini will in Arteta’s absence. For me, that requires Coquelin’s energy and ability to cover for Flamini’s lack of pace and awareness at times. Arsenal have been exploited ruthlessly on the counter-attack and Galatasaray’s tactics will no doubt involve more of the same. It’s a match that Arsène has noted as a must-win but it comes with the added pressure of a must-not-lose as well.
My starting line-up would be:
Arsène’s target for reaching the next round is ten points. I think he will need more but to reach those levels, two wins and a draw at home are necessary. Needing to beat Dortmund in the return is not an ideal situation to be in so winning tonight is vital, especially as the Turks are the most realistic rivals for second place. I don’t see that Arsenal will win the group, despite their top seeded status, a position that is trading on past glories, relatively speaking. In that instance, six points from Anderlecht and four from Galatasaray must be the minimum. Pressure whichever way you look at it but that set of results means anything from the Dortmund home tie is a bonus. Losing the opening game left Arsenal on the back foot and tonight is the opportunity to take control of their Champions League destiny until the knockout phase at least.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.
From The Vaults
I had intended to use this as a platform to launch a tirade against Piers Morgan and his despicable crew of Daily Mirror hacks at the time but instead, the match reports are posted from that night in Copenhagen. It doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten or forgiven the reprehensible miscreants but I’m not going to give them the oxygen of publicity.