PSG Preview – Entrance Exam Awaits

Bullishness from a football manager is the surest sign that the evening is about to hold horribly wrong. I was, very early on, tempted to switch channels and watch Dortmund v Legia and the purist in me thinks it was the better game to watch. But, oh god, Thursday Hotspur were so bad it was funny.

No Mauricio, you won’t win the Champions League but you’ve definitely got a Europa League squad.

That we couldn’t beat.

It was a point not lost on Arsène either. He pointed to the north London derby as the example of the team being “a bit stuttering”. It’s November, of course we are; we always do.

There is little shame or reason why the squad, no matter the season, habitually falters at this time of the year. Injuries could explain it or be a significant reason, especially in the past when the toll of the October and November international breaks is felt.

There’s a psychological element to it all as well. The players are obviously aware of what has gone before and on some level take that in, becoming inhibited.

If that cod psychology is true, then tonight is a huge test for the squad:

“We want to build that momentum up again. We need to show we can win against a big team, so it’s more important for us to do the job. It would send out a statement.”

True, to some extent but nobody will fear us until we win a knockout game against a big team. We’ve beaten Bayern and Barcelona at the Emirates, Milan as well but nobody thinks they will lose over two legs to us. That’s the hurdle we have to overcome.

And the British government is doing its part to help us. Serge Aurier was banned from entering the UK due to his conviction for elbowing a policeman earlier this year. PSG and UEFA were up in arms but can do nothing.

So where were the Home Office officials when Lionel Messi landed? “Tax  evasion, sir? That’s no problem, we have quite a few of them in the Government. Don’t forget your attaché case full of used bank notes. Enjoy your  visit.”

Aurier’s absence won’t harm Arsenal and years ago, it might have instilled a siege mentality but footballers are so cosseted that it doesn’t seem possible they are capable of that thinking, not at this level.

Tonight’s team will show a few changes to the supine XI which took the field at Old Trafford. Ospina will come in for Cech which is no surprise or reflection on the older goalkeeper; Arsène has his loyalty to his cup goalkeeper and won’t change unless the Colombian has a horror show.

The midfield is intriguing. Against the grain, I would go with Ramsey and Xhaka. Not many favour the Welshman but we need goalscoring support for the forwards this evening and he is the most capable of that from midfield. I suspect Arsène will go with Coquelin instead, scarred no doubt by the mauling we received for 75 minutes in Paris.

The lack of width on the left on Saturday concerned everyone and being a home game, I’d expect Alex Iwobi to return to the starting line-up with Theo Walcott on the right. It’s a tough call with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain providing a spark this season. It wouldn’t surprise me if he started, I just don’t think he will.

That might change if Olivier Giroud plays. A man with a point to prove due to being dropped to the bench. A man in good goalscoring form. A man with a burning sense of injustice at being harshly sent off in Paris.

Which Olivier Giroud will turn up? The goal hungry striker or the petulant mess with a chip shop on both shoulders? The former is the one you need but the latter has a nasty habit of turning up when you don’t want him to.

But with Alexis still suffering from a hamstring injury, it seems inconceivable he will start. Arsène explained that the Chilean himself and medical staff passed him fit for Saturday but that he was still feeling some tightness hence the heavy strapping he wore. Surely that’s the warning sign he is in the ‘red zone’?

It is a case of whether you think the risk of him missing the next few weeks is a risk worth taking. It isn’t  a tough group of games but those are the Ines you have to win if you want to challenge for the title and cups.

It leaves the line-up as:

Ospina; Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Montreal; Coquelin, Xhaka; Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi; Giroud

Winning the group is important to the squad. In their minds it will be a big step forward not having achieved that ‘feat’ for five years. The way the other groups look like finishing, it will be a slightly better draw but there are still tough opponents likely to finish second including Atletico, Sevilla and Dortmund. Maybe Bayern instead of Atleti. No easy games unless it’s Besiktas…

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

213 thoughts on “PSG Preview – Entrance Exam Awaits

  1. Orson Kaert says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    If that was an improved display by Ramsey, he must have been far worse than I thought in his previous games.

    He constantly passes to players who are closely marked, he always takes at least two touches when a better player would need only one. He has no conception of what he is going to do until he actually receives the ball, then he starts to look around for somebody to dump the ball on, by which time he is himself under pressure. The usual outcome is either a back pass or most likely lost possession.

    Ramsey should have learnt from Fabregas, he always had awareness of the players around him and knew before receiving the ball what he intended to do. It’s called having a football brain, unfortunately Ramsey has a football for a brain.

  2. nicky says:

    OK, due to the peculiar reasoning in the CL goals for and against, we are likely to finish second in our Group. So what. We would still be in the KO section of the competition and no CL games are ever easy. Remember that most of the top teams in our land envy our position.
    As usual we will progress as best we can. If we strike form we could still win through to the final. 😉

  3. Bill says:

    Our midfield was outplayed just like it was at Old Trafford. Hard to blame any single player. In theory you would think the player who should be stepping up and doing something is Ozil. Our system depends on the midfield controlling the tempo of the game and it certainly decreases the value of having the worlds greatest midfielder if he can’t influence the game unless everything is set up perfectly for him.

  4. Paulie Walnuts says:

    I’m clutching at straws, Bill.

    Either that or they have better players than us.

  5. thebigM says:

    “A fair result” Not really – we scored through a soft penalty and a bizarre own goal and I don’t think we had any shots on target.
    We really got away with it AGAIN

  6. Bill says:


    Credit for being willing to admit you are grasping for straws. They certainly outplayed us. We have not really looked good for more then a month so it was no surprise, but to me the biggest disappointment was not the performance but the defense. I really thought we were going to be quite good at defending but have not been keeping many clean sheets and you can’t concede 2 away goals in a CL game.

  7. Wailesy says:

    Do we think Wenger has finally seen enough to realise Ramsey is a starter from the bench at best on current form.

    Why is Xhaka not starting?

    Wenger’s personally unbolting the wheels on this campaign with non existent tactics and poor team selections.

    I feel like Captain senderos. I’m totally over these insipid displays we continually turn out, week in week out, season after season.

  8. Jonnygunner says:

    I rushed home from work -and have to go back to the customers tomorrow-to watch that load’a’bollocks …….fuuuuuuuuck me,has Arsene learned anything ?
    Utter tosh

  9. Steve Palmer1 says:

    Evening all,
    Bit better performance than the last few games, but still not enough for this standard of football. Yes many will be disappointed that we didn’t get the win at home, but after what we have been watching, i felt we did show a little bit more urgency in the second half.

    I do get a little frustrated with back passing, on numerous occasions a ball passed forward to an unmarked player, saw a return pass back, passed the two players it had just passed, i cant by the life of me understand passing like this.

    Likewise, while we are attacking on the edge of their box why is the ball passed back to our keeper. Now i am no tactical genius, but that seems a waste of an attack.

    We have players who seem to receive the ball when they have two players marking then tightly, surely we should have players moving into spaces , but of course our players seem to have the defensive mode programmed in.

    Having my little moan, we shouldn’t forget that for twenty minutes, we did show more commitment than i have seen in a while, and PSG found it a lot tighter and also started to make mistakes, but we do seem to tire of this far to early.

    Tonight we had a few stars injured, but so did PSG and they did try and press us from the start but in the end they tired . Cavani tried very hard, a quality striker who chased every chance, luckily for us it just never clicked for him, but it did show that Zonal marking may seem to work in some games, but a lot of the time it leaves holes where we are punnished.

  10. Damon says:

    I’m starting to think that the next time we see Granit on the pitch he’ll have morphed into a Wengermid. He’s not allowed to play ATM as Arsene hasn’t been able to coach the bite, pressing, quick transitions, long range shots and forward passes out of him yet

    Fear not friends, Arsene will sort him and we’ll see that £35m in action with more static movement and sideways passing very soon

  11. Damon says:

    I’ll be honest, I turned off at 2:1 and went to bed happy. I knew we’d blow it. I’d imagine that we went far too deep in defence, invited a load of pressure, so sat even deeper? Then Giroud was out only out ball, but everyone else was so deep defending, they were t close enough to get to him in time to help out, we lost possession and it came straight back at us. Repeat?

    We setup about as balanced as a two wheeled tricycle in those in game situations. It’s either strikers as full backs or ten men in our own box

    We’ll either see PSG drop points and not win ourselves, they drop points and we’ll top the group and get a horror 2nd place draw and go out, getting spanked in the first leg with a plucky attempt, falling a goal short of what was needed in the 2nd. Or get an “easy” 1st placed team and still lose somehow, from a position where we probably didn’t have to

  12. Damon says:

    The biggest disappointment (not for the first time) last night was that a clean sheet, regardless of everything else last night, would have delivered what we needed. Once the game started the only surprise was it took them as long as 18 minutes to flush that option down the pan.

    But Arsene was probably right trying to make a statement with the result last night instead

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