Match day once again and an interesting game from the manager’s perspective. Arsenal sit top of the Champions League group and a win tonight confirms progress, if combined with a PSG victory over Basel – and thrashed Ludogorets a fortnight ago. The biggest issue seems, on the surface, to be stopping complacency setting in.
Arsène hinted at the problem when he focussed on the players mental attitude as being a key issue if the team are to do well this month. November, he acknowledged had been a tricky month before but “we’ve also had positive ones in our history too” in a Canute-like moment to stem the bad karma the media is ushering our way.
“The most The most important thing is to not live with the past,” before adding, “we have to live with the team we have at the moment.” Which can be made to sound a lot more resigned than Arsène intended. Whether you choose to take that view depends more on your mood than anything else.
Arsène sought to impress upon us that the players hold to the key to this season:
“Our destiny lies in the minds of the players, how strong our focus is and how hungry we are. We need to be like that in every single game, starting tomorrow.”
It always is. The win over Sunderland displayed a degree of focus, with the XI not knocked out of their stride by the equaliser and the seeming injustice of Alexis’ penalty appeal being denied. There is the question of the preceding hour where we only established a single goal lead. A lack of ruthlessness brought on by the certain knowledge of being far superior to your opponents?
That’s the manifestation of complacency the manager and players need to guard against. At some point, it comes back to bite on the backside, normally in November or February. Tonight is one of those games with a potential banana skin.
Come on, I hear you say, where is the ‘professional braggadocio’ of the supporter? Still in Zagreb, I think, is the answer and I’m not quite sure why. Tonight’s team will be changed, which may well be a good thing. Rather than the usual rotation with players knowing they won’t get into the XI no matter, some of the players are highly motivated to retain their place with this weekend in mind.
Prime candidate is Olivier Giroud. The French international is looking to get back into the first team:
“The team has played very well at the start of the season but it’s cyclic and I hope to come back by working hard in training. I’m happy as long as we win. We have a very good team cohesion and I’m not questioning myself too much. I’m just focused on the team.”
It lost a bit in translation in his mind because it did read as if he thought the good form wouldn’t last: “it’s cyclic”? Past experience has bitten Olivier hard, I’d suggest. Which is no bad thing. A motivated forward came on at Sunderland and two goals later he’d given the manager a lot to think about.
Tonight is interesting from the team selection perspective. How many players does Arsène rotate? David Ospina replaces Cech, Jenkinson likewise the injured Bellerin. With those two changes, is it sensible to change the centre back(s)? Granit Xhaka in for Coquelin, partnering Elneny, maybe Ramsey? Giroud in for Alexis or Alex Iwobi?
You could go spend a long time on the combinations and I’m sure Arsène has. The match has too much riding on it for Wenger to go full on EFL Cup and rotate the side out but the temptation must be there. I do think the changes will be limited to no more than four; it would be too disruptive for an away game. Which leads the line-up to be:
Ospina; Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs; Xhaka, Elneny; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Alexis; Giroud
Wins for PSG and Arsenal tonight send both teams through; they will both be aspiring to that with, I suspect, the return at the Emirates played as a game of cat and mouse. The 6 – 0 home win over Ludogorets may well prove decisive.
I do expect us to win tonight and clearly as well. Arsenal are 3/1 on, to win and frankly, that’s normally bad news for us. You can keep an eye on the odds for tonight’s game with this promo code for Bet on Brazil.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.