An interesting stat from The Independent: Since losing to Inter in 2003, Arsenal have only lost two out of 42 Champions League home games and those were against other English teams.
It seems that our first Champions League home game of the campaign, which should have be a relatively straight-forward challenge, has become increasingly difficult.
Firstly, we have to show the home crowd that we can bounce back from a disappointing defeat which owed as much to our errors as to our opponent’s quality. Secondly we will be without Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta, as you can see here, which could destabilise our midfield. The relationship between Arteta and Cazorla has been pleasing and Diaby’s physical presence is something none of our other midfielders have. Wenger will also be sitting in the stands as his UEFA ban continues, which could prove another hurdle.
Although Olympiacos lost to Schalke in the first game, Arsenal hardly bread confidence as they held on for a 1-2 victory in Montpellier. We have faced Olympiacos twice in the group stages in the last three seasons – both times we won the home match with relative ease, whereas we lost in the away games. However, the away games have both come later in the group, when Wenger chose to field decidedly weaker teams as we had all but qualified.
With Wilshere likely to be eased into the team quite slowly, our midfield options are fewer than usual. However, there is still a bit of a headache for the manager to choose between Coquelin, Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain to partner Cazorla. I think we all expect Coquelin to deputise for Arteta in the slightly deeper midfield role. I expect Coquelin to be our long-term replacement for Mikel, but given his versatility he will get more games along the way. I’m going to stick my neck out and say Ramsey will start because he’s been decent so far this season, when given the chance. And with Wilshere returning, his opportunities to impress may become limited.
Here’s my team prediction:
The other day, I wrote about how Giroud needs to be given more starts. A start breeds confidence and allows a player to integrate more into the team. This is especially important for a forward that enjoys linking with attacking midfielders and holding up the ball. Giroud’s aerial ability has been impressive so far, and I hope that continues tonight, possibly with a goal or two to stop fans and the media whinging about him!
I hope Arsenal get back to winning ways and get a clean sheet – the latter hasn’t occurred for the last 5 games. I predict a 1-0 victory with Cazorla getting the goal.