Red Star Preview: Time to Show The Cojones

Mention Red Star Belgrade and mental images of communist-era Yugoslavia flood the mind. Of a technically gifted XI who were under-achievers on the international stage. The mass of footballing contradictions came with the dullest Champions Cup final ever in 1991; the match which gave birth to the rat-infested mess of European competition we now have.

Of drab concrete stadiums; the Marakana, which to this day I don’t know the official name of. Probably the 5th of July Stadium or something commemorating an uprising; communist authorities were big on that.

And of Kevin Keegan getting seven bells of crap kicked out of him at Belgrade airport.

Red Star now? I shrug my shoulders. Not for me hours poring over dvds marked ‘Red Star’. Arsène did all that while being careful not to mix up the discs from the covers with a red star on the corner.

Red Star Belgrade. Or Crvena Zvezda as they were known for years until their title before becoming anglicized once more. I’m not sure why beyond the inherent laziness of the English media. Kiev remains Kyiv; why has Crvena Zvezda reverted to type.

And here we are. A win all but confirms us in the next round but finishing top of the group gives us seeded status in the next round. That’s the object of the exercise so we cannot afford a slip-up this evening. It’s Arsenal, Europe and a decent start to a group phase: cock-up ahoy!

Such cynicism in one so young. Arsène mentioned the support of the team always has a positive impact.” It took me a while to realise he was talking about the home supporters, in which case I fully agree with his assertion that it won’t have a negative impact: the players are used to having us on their backs.

You May See The Meaning Of Within

Wenger dropped a Debuchy-sized bombshell into the equation. The former French international is a “possibility” to start and hasn’t previously because “every time he is close to coming back he gets injured again.”

It led to the usual faux outrage that we Arsenal fans do so well. If there’s any derision to heap on a player or an electronic vote to win, we’re your men and women. Is including Debuchy that much of an issue? It’s hard to make a case that it isn’t. His last few team outings stick in the mind for the incoherent positional play. Is tonight’s appearance going to be on the right side of a back three? Will that make things any better?

Maybe if the suggestion Petr Cech is likely to start behind a very makeshift defence proves correct. I’m assuming of course, that one of Monreal or Kolasinac won’t play. In front of a hostile crowd tonight, I’d be surprised if Wenger went with two inexperienced wing-backs although Debuchy on the right and Bellerin on the left can’t be ruled out.

While we might argue that Saturday’s performance demands a strong XI but it isn’t going to happen. Arsène isn’t putting all his hopes into a Europa League shaped basket; we can still reach the Promised Land via the top four. Yes, that old chestnut; I’m not going there. And nor, I think, are Arsenal.

Both Wenger and Jack Wilshere took exception to Troy Deeney’s assessment of the squad. To paraphrase the pair, we’ve got the cojones. Wilshere went one step further declaring, “I look around this team and you can’t question our character.”

Yes, Jack; yes, we can. Did you not see the shambles at Vicarage Road? A strong team doesn’t lose in such a flimsy manner.

Lay Down all Thoughts, Surrender to the Void

Whatever the circumstance, Arsenal players always proclaim the mental strength of the squad. Usually after it has gone inexplicably missing. While I have no doubt that the players believe they are strong, we know there’s a flaky performance or two screaming to get out and succeeding in doing  so with little provocation.

Was Saturday getting it out of our system? I hope so but in the middle of a run of three away games, it’s hard to genuinely believe that. Maybe the reserves will prove us wrong or make a case for inclusion on Sunday, at the very least. I’d expect the line-up to be:

Ospina/Cech; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Holding; Mailtand-Niles, Wilshere, Elneny, Bellerin; Walcott, Giroud, Özil

It is what it is but not conceding first will probably be as vital as anything this evening. And then holding onto that advantage. We can do that, as we saw in the last Europa League game. Then again, we saw what happened at Watford. Who knows how this one is going to end.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

A new post at Dad’s Jukebox this morning with a quick catch-up of the reissues news and a playlist to go with.

’til Tomorrow.

123 thoughts on “Red Star Preview: Time to Show The Cojones

  1. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Sheaf looks like a sizable lump. We could do with bringing through someone of his physique.

  2. HenryB says:

    Excellent result — pretty poor game to watch — doesn’t matter — that’s football. 😀

  3. Woolwich Freddie says:

    I thought Cech was excellent this time out. You know it was underwhelming when you want to talk about your keeper.

  4. HenryB says:

    If he does the biz, C, he deserves it! 🙂

  5. Noon Gunner says:

    We were the better team of a v patchy pair. Jack, Cech, Niles and Nelson looked most on their game. That said, our back three were pretty solid and Coq left them no great acres of space in the middle.

    Just seen the goal again and I reckon it’s one for the archives. Classic Arsenal – frustrating when we fail to walk it into the net, then breathtaking when we get it right.

  6. Noon Gunner says:

    Interesting that our excellent goal in the end came from our three outfield seniors. Yet Arsene has blooded some promising youngsters in this tournament and we’re way out in front of our group, so his gamble has paid off. Credit to him.

    We clearly needed the first half to shake off the journey and find one another on the pitch. Happily, Uncle Petr was there to keep the marauders out while we did all that.

  7. Adam Singh says:


    I know Nelson is normally a RW but he played CM tonight and Willock was rWB. He also played CM in the last Europa game as well I think.

  8. Bill says:

    Giroud is frustrating and he has been poor this season. However, in a game like today it would be completely foolish to take him off because no matter how poor he might be, he is still a lot more likely to score then anyone in todays squad that we could replace him with. The idea that we should have brought on Nketiah or Akpom instead of Giroud would be shooting ourselves in the foot. Same thing with Walcott. A lot of people were suggesting we should have sold both last summer but if we had sold them who in the world is going to score any goals in these Europa League or early round FA cup games?

  9. C says:

    Watching the Everton v Lyon match and Williams with a blatant and unnecessary push on the GK into the stands and the a melee starts. Williams is VERY VERY VERY lucky to be on the pitch after throwing punches but what was even worst is that Everton supporters literally punching the Lyon players as they are pressed up against the boards behind the goal. Absolutely disgusting from the Everton players and the Everton supporters.

    Williams again scores a goal and then after the goal hits the Lyon player with a clear elbow. This ref is really bottling it and I wonder if part of it is because they are at Goodison.

  10. C says:

    Adam Singh,

    I think they were actually swapping and covering for each other more than anything. Have to say, when I say Nelson central at times it was a bit of a headscratcher.

  11. C says:

    Wow this ref is letting the Everton players fly into challenges and get away with quite a bit but when teh Lyon players blow on an Everton player its a foul and a strong talking too.

  12. C says:

    Ashley William gets beat and Keane doesn’t get to the striker and Lyon are up 2-1. Pickford with some horrid GK’ing right there.

  13. Dukey says:

    Jack wilshere!!

    What a Fukin talent…… If only we had a few more like him… So nice to see him back…. And with him back after his exodus last year I’m confident we can get our 4th place trophy back….. See, the season we sent him offand we messed up. Glad to see him back…. Please ankles, don’t shatter… We need a fit jack to save our sorry arses.

  14. Bill says:


    Nice to see Jack playing but isn’t that a bit over the top after watching him play 1 game against Red Star Belgrade. He played about 2/3 of the games last year and was in his best health since 2010 and he didn’t really impress anyone.

  15. Orson Kaert says:

    Just finished watching the recording, simple match report:

    Arsenal scored, Red Star didn’t.

    Good night!

  16. Wailesy says:

    I watched a fair bit of Wilshere on loan last term and apart from a couple of “moments” I felt he was short on pace and confidence. Wilshere’s played two outstanding 90mins in the Europa. He’s putting himself in the shop window for a Jan move and/ or a WC spot. Either way a switch has been flicked and I agree with Dukey, Jack’s back!

  17. Arsetralian says:


    Let’s hope so

    Bill will say he is doesn’t score consistently in high leverage games next

    Just a joke Bill
    You are a results man
    Always about who is going to score the goals
    And I agree (generally)

  18. HenryB says:


    —– “A lot of people were suggesting we should have sold both last summer but if we had sold them who in the world is going to score any goals in the Europa League”

    Their replacements?

    Not that Theo scored last night. 🙂

  19. Orson Kaert says:

    Looking comfortable in the Europa League, not such a bad completion after all?

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