It’s been a weekend for the prophecies people. Every nut with a bet on Coquelin’s ligaments suddenly thinks he is better than everybody at the club and the naysayers are out in force, saying it is the end of our season. The Champions League provides a much needed exit route from all the ‘end of the world’ talk. Just like Coquelin is being replaced by Flamini, I’m filling in for Alex here so thanks for the opportunity, mate. It’s a week where we’re going to have to make do with what we’ve got.
The Dinamo Zagreb game will surely have many of us watching with one eye on Bayern and Olymiakos battling it out at the Allianz Arena. The best gift we can give the team is an Emirates up on its feet at every ball won and an atmosphere the away fans will tell stories of to their great grandchildren, so those of who have the privilege of being there should stand behind their team and prove worthy of being a Gooner.
Team news update
We already have Hector Bellerin back and running, so that is one positive to draw from. Aaron Ramsey is back and has had just one full training with the team. I think it is is possible he will land up on the bench and be used in the second half, and here is what Wenger said about him:
“ I have 24 more hours [to decide], He’s had just one training session with the team and of course that’s a bit risky. But I haven’t completely decided yet.”
Oxlade Chamberlain should be available for the next PL match we have this weekend and that’s another hoorah. The Ox could have provided a lethal attacking option even if he were on the bench but Wenger seems pretty clear about who we have on hold for the central position so we will look into that a bit later.
As for Francis Coquelin we have had some concrete news from the boss. As usual there was no actual giveaway about the injury and the duration for which he is expected to be out. I for one am hoping that Shad works his magic in the rehab phase and gets him back on the pitch as soon as possible. Here is Wenger on Coquelin’s injury:
“It is at least a month. I’m a bit cautious as we have had so many bad surprises on the scans… but the team for the next few months will be without Coquelin.”
Arsenal have played 3 games with Dinamo Zagreb and they have won two in which was also included the one home result against them. They have not won any of their last 11 away games on the trot with 9 losses and 2 draws.
Arsene needs to do some serious thinking because we do not have his first choice XI available to us. Funnily enough if we take a look at the reverse fixture at Stadium Maksimir, we see that the team which started there is quite like the one that will start most probably tonight at the Emirates, except the full backs.
|Stadium Maksimir||Emirates (probable starters)|
|David Ospina||Petr Cech|
|Mathieu Debuchy||Hector Bellerin|
|Laurent Koscielny||Laurent Koscielny|
|Kieran Gibbs||Nacho Monreal|
|Mikel Arteta||Mathieu Flamini/Aaron Ramsey|
|Santi Cazorla||Santi Cazorla|
|Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain||Kieran Gibbs/Aaron Ramsey/Joel Campbell|
|Mesut Ozil||Mesut Ozil|
|Alexis Sanchez||Alexis Sanchez|
|Olivier Giroud||Olivier Giroud|
It seems like a cruel twist of fate. The first choice CDM who was rested in the away leg is now incapacitated for months, the left back in the away game is touted as a winger for this game. The right winger rested there has just about returned to the team and the winger who started isn’t available. Aaron Ramsey and his position holds the key to the entire team set up so we will have to wait for team news to see the final line up.
You will see how the CDM situation in the two teams is thin with both having secondary options, although Aaron Ramsey is not to be considered secondary for any position- the man has an engine such that he can play all 10 outfield positions. While Calum Chambers has been talked up as an option by the gaffer himself, the possibility of him being thrown in at the deep end is thin. Especially because he doesn’t seem to have any great quality which sets him apart like Bellerin has his speed and Coquelin has his tackling ability . While walking on thin ground I suspect the central position may go to Ramsey for the second half while Flamini starts. I do not think Ramsey will start unless fully match ready so looks probable he will land up on the bench and then be used for an impact substitution. There is some good reading on this here.
Both first choice full backs being available we are a much better team with width offered on bith flanks via Bellerin’s raw pace on the right and Monreal’s understanding with both Ozil and Sanchez on the left. The winger selection has a lot to do with the impact the full backs can have and while Alexis is a sure starter in what is a must win game, I reckon we have a rotation policy on our hands with the other options. If Ramsey starts at either CDM or right wing, then he might be shunted back or forward in the second half depending on the score. It seems a very pro-active change though so let us consider the other options. When Alexis is shunted right Gibbs can start on the left but he does not have the skills of a winger so there is that. He is also left footed and does not have the option to shoot on the other foot. With Mesut Ozil doing a fantastic job of pinging balls onto heads in the penalty box I reckon we do not need a ball playing winger as much as we need trickery or build up play. The only two options which provide either of these qualities are Joel Campbell and Ramsey. While Ramsey’s position in the squad is the real missing piece of the puzzle, Campbell also has his moments and has more experience in the position than Gibbs, so let us consider only Joel Campbell and Ramsey as possibilities for the wing.
I would also point you to Alexis’s performance in the West Brom game, which tells us that he is somehow running himself into form again. That to just when he was seemingly running himself into the ground! I fail to understand how he does it or where he gets the stamina, but clearly he’s mining more stamina than the Man City owners are mining oil ( Zinga!). The man has 29 successful dribbles which is the best in the competition. I truly believe he will be a decider for us today.
The back four at least will be full strength and well on form along with Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud whose form has gone under the radar as he has been scoring in losing causes. Contrary to many other, both I and Alex agree that Per has a job to do in this game, calming the midfield passing game and being the senior figure in the side. This leaves us with approximately 9 of our full strength XI and I believe that should be enough for Dinamo Zagreb at the Emirates.
Predicted Line Up:
I’m taking a gamble here but here goes nothing
Cech – Bellerin – Koscielny – Mertesacker – Monreal – Cazorla – Flamini- Ozil – Campbell – Alexis – Giroud
With three indifferent results on the trot it is time to start the turn around. The Champions League record we have had in the last 15 seasons is unmatched other than by Real Madrid and while Wenger doesn’t care much about these things, I feel the players must be making an effort to protect this record. While it is all well and good to worry about Coquelin, I believe the team is more than capable of beating a side like Zagreb at home. Emirates, let’s go.
Here’s hoping for three points later on. COYG.