Category Archives: Europa League

Is The PL The Toughest League In The World?

They say the Premier League is the toughest domestic league in the world.

It may be hyperbole scripted by the TV Execs to justify exorbitant subscription fees, but there may be something in it.

Looking at the top European leagues, the usual suspects duke it out season after season for the top honours. In Italy, Juventus have won countless consecutive Scudettos. In Spain, if your name isn’t Barcelona or one of the Madrid’s, you aren’t welcome in the VIP section. Ditto for PSG, Ajax, PSV, Dortmund and Bayern in France, the Netherlands and Germany.

Of course, there are exceptions. FC Twente in the Netherlands, Monaco in Ligue Un, Leicester City and the odd guest appearance in the Champions League from a surprise runner means that there is indeed depth that on the surface appears to be non-existent.

But in the Premier League, the true fact is that every single one of the twenty teams that take part in the Premiership is capable of gunning down one another. Every weekend, the so-called ‘Big6’ go into their respective fixtures with a healthy degree of respect for their opposition. No matter if they are Premier League debutants or top-flight veterans, every club has the chance of ruining an accumulator.

The fact that it is now a ‘Big6’ rather than the already established ‘Top4’ shows that there is no room for error when fighting for the summit. It means that there are opportunities for those who invest wisely the ridiculous sums of money doled out for TV rights.

That brings us to a salient point for us Gooners.

Are we able to maintain the gap between us and the chasing pack?

 

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We have spent wisely in the summer and purchased players that will enable us to go the distance a little easier than last season, which saw us crawl over the finish line rather than kick on and claim our top four spot.

Then again, the peloton that is breathing down our necks have also strengthened significantly, and have owners more than willing to back their Managers to the hilt with regard to transfer activity.

Leicester City, West Ham, Wolves and Everton have been backed by their investors. They have been active and purchased players that wouldn’t look out of place in our squad, or even City’s and Liverpool’s talent pool.

The Foxes have made a strong start to this season, and the additions of Youri Tielemans, Caglar Soyuncu (from the previous season) and Dennis Praet mean that along with the likes of James Maddison and Jamie Vardy, boss Brendan Rodgers has all the pieces required to assemble a challenging squad.

West Ham have been very active, and spent heavily on Sebastian Haller up front and the highly-sought after Pablo Fornals in midfield. The Hammers now have a squad littered with top class names – enough to seriously trouble our hopes of re-entry to the Champions League.

Wolves, led by the tactical nous of Nuno Espirito Santo, went mightily close to piercing the Top 6 bubble. Up top they have the prolific Raul Jimenez who is ably assisted by Diego Jota. In midfield, Joao Moutinho rolls back the years and Connor Coady does the mucky stuff, and with Matt Doherty in defence providing a constant outlet, they have a spine that will continue to push bigger teams.

Everton have some serious wealth behind them. Their owners are not shy in their ambition, and that means Marco Silva has spent on some big name players. Moise Kean, Fabian Delph, Yerry Mina  (from the previous summer) and our Hale End product Alex Iwobi join an already dangerous squad, with Gylffi Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Adrien Gomes, Bernard, Michael Keane, Lucas Digne, Seamus Coleman and Theo Walcott showing that the Toffees are justifiably excited for this season.

While we have our eyes very much upwards, it means that points that were normally a lot easier to grab will now be a slog, and squad’s will have to rotate, but it will be difficult for manager’s who rotate heavily.

The same goes for the likes of Champions City, Liverpool and our top four rivals. No more points bagged as soon as the game is kicked off. These teams can not only hurt them, they can run for the majority of the season’s distance.

When the likes of Crystal Palace are beating United, promoted Sheffield United drawing with Chelsea and Burnley and Bournemouth doling out slip-ups on the regular, every game will need meticulous scrutiny before the game begins.

It means some trophies may have to be sacrificed, with our promising youth filling the void as our established players take a breather.

All of this makes for palpitations, and also is the perfect league to watch week in and week out.

What’s Your Favourite Goal?

Goals are the currency of football.

Never mind the abhorrent amount of money that flows through the veins of the game, it is goals that keep the heart pumping, the turnstiles rotating and the clubs breathing.

When the ball hits the back of the net, for scorer and fan alike there is no greater feeling. They make the difference between glory and failure, ignominy and memories made. They encapsulate entire era’s, they symbolise icons and halcyon times.

They are also entirely subjective.

Just look at any Goal of the Month poll. Whether it be long-range screamer, thumping header or intricate team move, there are advocates for all. There are always football hipsters who will vocalise the attributes involved in a 6 yard finish, and the purists will always vouch for a twisting, turning solo goal, seeing opposition defenders sprawled on the turf with twisted blood.

Goals are enjoyed by all, but ask anyone what their favourite goal is and no matter their allegiance, they will always give a different answer.

It can be a long range, top-corner botherer, it could be a 20 pass manoeuvre that exhibits the finest one-touch passing before a slick finish bewilders the goalkeeper. More often than not though, it will be the occasion that elevates a goal from crowd pleaser to unique moment forever captured by all minds.

Look at Michael Thomas and his last minute heroics at Anfield in 1989. His run was astute, yep, but there was a bobble and a touch of luck before he put the ball over the lunging grasp of Bruce Grobbelaar.

michael-thomas Anfield

Pure it wasn’t, but you ask Gooners what their favourite goal was, and a large swathe of us will plump for it.

Thierry Henry’s effort against Liverpool in 2004. Champions League and FA Cup exits had left us raw, and we were on the rack against an inferior Liverpool team. Step forward Thierry Henry, at the time probably the greatest player in the world.

He picked up the ball about thirty five yards out and began to lead a merry dance, so fleet of foot and rapid that two, three, four Liverpool players attempted and ultimately failed to grab possession or even to stop Henry in his tracks.

Jamie Carragher left in a broken heap on the turf. The roar of the crowd as belief seeped in once again. The goal this time was beautiful, but much more than that, it was when we stayed on track during our greatest test in the Invincibles season.

The point here, is that as long as the net is rippled, we will greedily lap up all and sundry in terms of style of goal. We always appreciate a stylish effort, and if it grades high in technical skill then we will fondly remember it.

But should we progress to the Europa League final and one of our players knocks in the ball with his left butt-cheek? It will be held in the highest regard.

Aaron Ramsey’s winner Vs Hull City in the 2014 FA Cup Final. Andy Linighan, 1993. Charlie Nicholas, 1987, Eddie Kelly, 1971. Some goals were far more aesthetically pleasing than others, but each share a parallel – they won us something. They etched our name on silverware – and for that, they are also etched into our minds in indelible ink.

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My personal favourite? Sylvain Wiltord’s effort against United at Old Trafford, 2002. His finish was snaffling up a loose ball after Ljungberg’s effort was saved. But it was everything else that makes it unforgettable. The stadium, the opposition, the fact that we had gone ahead and then won in a ground that gave precious few points away – the fact that it won us the title on enemy ground.

Not the prettiest, but it was pretty effective!

What about you – what’s your favourite goal?

Champions League Or Bust?

Can you lose your European pedigree?

 

Decades of dining at the top table of European competition, duking it out with the zenith of club football. It gives a club a credence, an allure. It allows a club to build a brand, something the business that football has become makes mandatory.

 

Constant presence at the top also makes them far more palatable to talent, talent that makes it far easier for clubs to extend their reservation at the most exclusive tournament.

 

Why would a player choose to join a club not taking part where the best of the best are represented? Players themselves are becoming brands, and while money talks – so clubs not currently plying their trade in Europe always have a slim chance of snaring a big name – the majority of the time when a star becomes available, the club that is battling in the Champions League is predominantly the more attractive option.

 

Arsenal have not been in the Champions League for two seasons now, and the fight to avoid a third season hangs on a knife-edge. The Europa League offers arguably the more enjoyable campaign, as the Gunners have a real chance of holding aloft the trophy come May. But the Champions League talks big, and players want to hear that famous anthem on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, rather than watching on TV.

 

Arsenal took part in the Champions League for twenty consecutive seasons. We were mainstays in the competition, and for a long time we belonged in the first pot of seeds. Our decline from contention in the Premier League also coincided with our fall from grace on the biggest stage, and the last eight or so seasons of taking part in the top competition in football was more about taking the cheque rather than having any serious notion of winning it.

 

Consecutive Last-16 exits cemented Arsenal’s label as an attractive option for ballers, but far from the cream of the crop. Embarrassing exits to Bayern Munich and Barcelona only served to underline us as 2nd class, watching on as the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, Chelsea, Atletico and Juve all fought it out for the grand prize.

 

Now, we are on the verge of re-joining the competition. Would most of us not want to remain in the Europa League? The excitement of reaching the business end of the tournament, knowing that each time our name pops out of the hat means we have a real chance of lifting the thing?

 

The Champions League though, is mandatory for progress. Like it or not, the beast that it has become means that the money generated from even a group stage exit means more than winning the entire Europa League trophy.

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This means little to us in the stands and watching at home. The problem is however, that the longer we continue to stand outside, pressed up to the window but not involved means we drift further from the pack.

 

It means finding rough diamonds like Matteo Guendouzi becomes imperative, as the real big names want what we can’t provide.

 

A third season outside the Champions League won’t harm us too badly. Our profit margins will remain healthy and we can concentrate on a real push for a better position in the Premier League. should we prioritise that over the Europa League? Perhaps, but our squad is deep and talented enough to be able to fight on more than one front. We can focus on both. We should put a real push for the top four at the front of every season, it is far from beyond us.

 

Arsene Wenger once said that the top four is almost like a trophy, and the majority of us scoffed. With football as cutthroat as it is right now, his words have never been truer.

 

Our recent FA Cup wins meant the world to us, but a failure to reach the Champions League in the near future would mean that trophies would become even more scarce.

Pro’s and Con’s of a Winter Break

If you can make it in the Premier League, you can make it anywhere.

The lack of a festive break for footballers in the world’s most watched domestic league means that imports from other countries will face a baptism of fire when it comes to December.

While their compatriots will be sunning themselves in some far-flung destination, relaxing their weary bones, Premier League players will be going through the most gruelling spell of fixtures in the whole season.

Let us take our club for instance.

With European competition and domestic cup action, we have nine games to navigate our squad through, in 31 days. It is little over a game every three days.

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Even without European competition, and let’s throw an early exit in the Carabao Cup, it leaves every club with a bare minimum of seven matches.

December represents the toughest stage, and once through this imposing gauntlet, you know there are no more tests like it. There will be months that the going is tough, but none amount to the sheer physical exertion that nine games brings.

Does the festive schedule need to be binned? Some are of the opinion that because of the lack of a break, the England international team will always fall short. While their national rivals can call upon reserves of stamina, England will always be flat out, running on fumes and desperate for a rest.

However, Christmas and football are close bedfellows. Attending and watching games with family and friends is an institution, one that does need to be guarded to protect it for fans.

Could there be a compromise from the league that would fit everyone?

Probably not. Sky and TV companies hold the Premier League by the short and curlies, and can make it dance to whatever tune they wish. Abandoning the current status quo would seriously harm revenue, as figures over Christmas will be higher than any other time. It’s a captive audience, families indoors, watching the game with a box of Matchmakers.

The barometer for success can be found in European competition. The lack of success from English sides is tangible, while Spain reigns supreme. That means that Italy and Germany are also without any real progress, but they too enjoy a winter break.

A lot of this can be put down to the dominance of Real Madrid and Barcelona, but without them, Italy and Germany have had ever presents in the latter stages, where Chelsea, United, spurs, Liverpool, City and Arsenal have let the side down from time to time.

Can this be attributed to a lack of a winter rest?

Perhaps not, but it is probably a factor.

However, fan power does still have a part to play, at least in this situation.

If the festive schedule was taken away, and add to this the liberal peppering of international friendly breaks, supporters would not exactly be supportive of this. It would also cause a fixture scheduling hell, with clubs compromising fitness with games coming thick and fast for longer spells.

At this moment, it is just December that is packed full of games, but with a winter break, these nine games would have to be sandwiched unceremoniously throughout a season.

From a fans point of view, let us enjoy the many opportunities we are getting to see our side, and let our club, with their many resources, deal with the physical exertion.

Promises and Savouring the Journey

The season, Unai Emery’s first and the beginning of a new era of Arsenal, is in full swing.

 

The football is in a transitory stage, and when the dust settles, an Unai Emery modelled team will indeed make us a far tougher outfit than before. We can already see the seeds of Emery’s free-flowing attack in flashes – the non-stop movement and team-built moves that were the foundation of his success with Sevilla.

 

We also have a squad that is better equipped than in previous seasons. Defensive inequities remain, but this isn’t down to the personnel like in years before.

 

The future is bright, but for some, the future isn’t good enough.

 

Success is never quite close enough, glory always on the horizon but never within grasp.

 

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We are filled with promises from politicians that carry as much weight as the flakiest pastry, it is becoming the norm where someone’s word is worth nothing. So is it really surprising that we hold no optimism where the future is concerned?

 

Unai Emery will be painfully aware that he needs a modicum of success if he is to etch his name permanently into the annals of Arsenal. If he fails then he will be just another managerial casualty.

 

The requirements are simple, far simpler than at the majority of clubs. Do what Arsene failed to do in his last two seasons – reach the Champions League.

 

This means ousting two from Man United, Chelsea, tottenham, Liverpool and City. the Champions. Seeing as two of these teams look to be ahead of the chasing pack, that leaves two teams from four, including us.

 

The League is getting tougher and tougher to get at those pesky top four spots, but Emery’s prime objective could be fulfilled another way.

 

As aforementioned, our squad has been bolstered beyond what means we had for our last foray into the Europa League. We reached the Semi-Final then, with a tired team that couldn’t fully motivate in what was Wenger’s last season.

 

We now have a coach who is somewhat of a specialist in this competition. Like it or not too, if we were to lift this trophy, it would be our biggest European triumph. If Emery were to recreate his winning with Sevilla, it would be more than enough to sate the doubters and also the Board.

 

The Top4 may be a big leap, and so is the Europa League, but fighting on both fronts is a must. Emery is equipped to bring glory to the team, but his first season is a building effort. Targets may be in place but we must also realise that if we fall short, there are reasons why.

 

We aren’t where we need to be. We are building, pushing towards an accumulated effort which takes time.

 

We could lift a cup, we might not, but we need to enjoy the journey, as we are on the right path and progress is being made. If it doesn’t happen this season, we can at least rest assured that this is a lesson we need to learn to achieve more.

 

Patience is indeed a virtue, but we need to stop being so short-sighted and only see the struggle. Obstacles make the journey more exciting and for once, we need to have faith in the promises being made.

 

The struggle is real, but so are the words being spoken. We are on our way to silverware again.

Reclaiming North London Next Season?

For over two decades, North London was settled territory.

The equilibrium was undisturbed, and while there were tremors of change, Arsenal held dominion over Tottenham with a steady hand.

The last two years however – arguably three if it weren’t for a laughable final day drubbing at the hands of an already relegated Newcastle United – have seen Spurs break free from their shackles and usurp the Gunners.

The hard thing to swallow though, is that the team with a chicken atop a basketball for a crest have deserved to finish above us.

Every season represents another chance for redemption however.

Can we restore the status quo and reclaim North London this coming season?

Arsenal Vs Spurs - Who will be the Kings of North London next season?

Everything rests on Unai Emery’s shoulders.

Last season saw the gap become a gulf, at no point did we threaten to grab back the bragging rights from Spurs, as they comfortably earned a Champions League place while we duked it out with Burnley and Everton for the Europa League and the dubious honour of finishing 6th.

Arsene Wenger’s last season was not the way he would have envisaged signing off from the club he adored, but he did leave the club with its values intact and the foundations for something greater than the sum of 2017/18.

Emery and the recruitment team have acted quickly to remedy the gaping holes in our lineup, but it could be argued that it was never really personnel that has let us down – it has been tactical nous that has been our downfall.

Wenger gamely stuck to his guns even in the face of the fiercest critics, but his famed Plan A succeeded less and less.

The lack of a Plan B and the ignored scouting of opponents led to us tripping up far more than we should have done.

Our new Spanish boss is a stickler for detail, and former players under his watch have claimed that he was obsessed with videos of opponents, putting in the work to combat an opponent’s strengths.

Emery is also known for his pressing game, and swift conversions from defence to attack. This doesn’t mean he cannot play the possession game though, it just points to a team that will be able to mix it up to differing demands.

Spurs are on the precipice. For three seasons they have swaggered to the ring, welcomed by a bassy ringwalk number, only for them to duck out of the ring when the First Round bell signals the time for talking is over. They have arguably one of the most potent attacks in the League, and a settled defence. They have taken scalps and duked it out with the best – but crucially, they have won nix.

Their trophy cabinet – for all the pundits fawning, their players claiming they have what it takes, their manager being linked to the biggest clubs – is still bare.

Now, they have taken the next big step, and built a stadium with a capacity to enable them to cement their place amongst the biggest clubs. The only problem is, the debt they have now acquired could sink them.

This is where Wenger really excelled. When we took on all of the debt from The Emirates build – unlike Spurs who have had financial aid – we had to tighten our belts. We were on a diet of Djourou’s and Senderos’s, and we still maintained our Champions League presence, which was vital for our finances.

We fought our way out on our own merits. Spurs have a squad that deserves to be amongst the top earners, but in terms of other star men and teams, they are on a pittance. There is only so long players will stay at a club through devotion if they have no winners medals to show for it.

They know they can triple their income with a move away – so Daniel Levy must focus on tying down his gems before they jump ship. That inevitably means their transfer budget will require sales to bolster it. It could mean a few years scouring the bargain buckets of Europe – and this is where Spurs have a big problem.

Their squad last season fell short, and that is them at their strongest. If they are to take that final step and become bona fide challengers, they need to be better than they are now – and that means new personnel, which they won’t be able to afford.

This also means that we know what we need to do, to reclaim our spot in North London. We need to be better than Spurs were last season.

With this being Emery’s first season in charge, there are so many unanswered questions, and with change coming after Wenger’s two decades, we cannot claim to be able to foresee where we will be.

The signs are good though, and we can say this – this coming season will be far closer than the last one.
North London could still be back in our hands yet.

Unai Emery Set to be Next Arsenal Boss

Former PSG and Sevilla manager, Unai Emery, looks to be the next Arsenal manager, according to BBC Sport.

David Ornstein, BBC Sport correspondent and the man who often breaks Arsenal news via social media, stated that the Arsenal Board have unanimously agreed on the 46 year old Emery, who is set to be announced by the club later this week.

Unai Emery, the next Arsenal manager

Sky Sports Spanish football correspondent Guillame Balague commented on the situation early yesterday, stating that Emery was in talks with Arsenal and was in London. With most already accepting Mikel Arteta as the next Gunners boss, this was surprising news.

Arteta is now out of the running – whether this is because he turned it down or if he was even offered the managers role is up for debate – and Emery is close to being confirmed, with an announcement expected within days.

Emery earned his stripes at Sevilla, winning three successive Europa League trophies with the Spanish club, during his stint from 2013-16, but he has seen success throughout his managerial career.

In his first job at Spanish side Lorca, he took the club to the second tier for the first time in their history. A move to Almeria beckoned, and he earned a first ever promotion with the Andalusians. They finished a respectable eighth in their first season in the top flight.

Then, a switch to the big boys. Emery replaced Ronald Koeman at Valencia in 2008. The club were in serious financial trouble, but he still guided them to European qualification. His second season then saw him achieve a fantastic top 3 finish in La Liga, which he again replicated the following season – even after selling his top stars Villa and Silva.

An ill-fated switch to Spartak Moscow – his spell lasted just six months, followed, but it was his return to Spanish football with Sevilla that underlined his managerial chops.

Three Europa League wins out of three seasons was the result for Emery, and two fifth place finishes. It was his electric brand of football that really excited though. Sevilla cut through opposition ruthlessly, and their counter-attacks were swift. They could defend stoutly, but their pacy attack was what grabbed the glory in Europe.

A move to PSG was a mixed bag for Emery, mainly because of the bottomless pockets meant that expectation could only be sated with lifting the Champions League trophy. He failed to win the cup, but his band of hastily strung-together stars still dominated Ligue Un.

Now he is set for Arsenal, with skillful players but a desperate need for new tactics – and a more taciturn defence.

Can he deliver? He has the nous and the experience at the top level – all we can do is back him to succeed.

Atletico Madrid Vs Arsenal Europa Lge Semi 2nd Leg

So, our season hinges on this match. Our 2nd leg of our Europa League Semi-Final versus Atletico Madrid is the biggest game of our season, and we’ve got an almighty task ahead of us.

Atletico Madrid Vs Arsenal in the 2nd leg of the Europa League Semi Final.

The Spanish side have settled into their new home – the Wanda Metropolitana – and their defensive record is up there with the best in the business. They have conceded only four goals at home all season in La Liga – a stat that has been bandied around by everyone attempting to paint a picture of how difficult it will be for us to progress to the final.

A first european final since 2006, and a much needed salve on a campaign that has barely even flattered to deceive. Our Premier League hopes were never really lifted, and with just three games left in the season, we face a fight with Burnley for the ignominy of 6th spot.

Hardly form to strike fear into Atletico and their firebrand manager Diego Simeone – but if it weren’t for a foolish mistake at the back, we would have won the first leg. We played with verve and on the front foot, and the fact we are all so disappointed with a 1-1 draw shows that we really turned up and perhaps deserved a little more.

Still, a defensive lapse has been a symptom of our team thus far, and those brain-farts really need to be reined in if we are to harbour any hopes of reaching the Europa League final in Lyon.

In terms of our team, yet again Arsene Wenger opted to rest his Europa League team for our Premier League efforts, well, the majority of them. The lineup that lost to Manchester United on Sunday will be vastly different to who lines up against Atleti tonight, so Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal will come into our defence, and Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Danny Welbeck will most likely be included.

That means the impressive showings of Konstandinos Mavropanos and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will likely be on the bench, although if any of them are to be included, then AMN is the likelier of the two to get the nod. Granit Xhaka needs defensive cover and while Aaron Ramsey offers much, when it comes to offering a guardian behind Xhaka, that is not exactly his strong point.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is one who should make the cut after playing and scoring in the weekend, and the Armenian’s guile will be sorely needed to pierce a formidable Madrid defence.

Diego Godin is the lynchpin of Simeone’s side, but it won’t be the Uruguayan who poses the threat. Antione Griezmann has already showed his ability to score despite living off breadcrumbs for the majority of a game. Diego Costa is also fit and ready to go, and the double act will score goals if we switch off – which means that’s bad news for us.

Saul Niguez is another who can change the game, so we’ll have our hands full. We need to keep it tight at the back, and also score.

What is required is perhaps our best display in quite some years. Think our 5-1 at the San Siro. Our win at the Bernabeu. Our 2-1 win over Barca.

Trouble is, those results happened some time ago. It’s time to make some more memories.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Mkhitraryan, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 1-0 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Atletico Madrid Europa Lge Semi Preview

Arsene Wenger placed this season’s emphasis on the Europa League well before he declared his intention to leave at the end of the season.

And now it is the only chance we have of silverware that is available, and it’s also the only chance we’ve got left to give Wenger a fitting au revoir.

We line up against Atletico Madrid in this Semi-Final first leg at The Emirates with a severe defensive problem. It isn’t through injury though, it’s simply that we can’t keep a clean sheet.

Arsenal Vs Atletico Madrid in the Europa League Semi-Finals

In a tie where away goals are worth their weight in gold, this means that Diego Simeone’s side will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing Shkodran Mustafi and co – and maybe just putting one foot into the final in the process.

Our defence at least has no injury woes to deal with, so Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal should be the four that lines up to face Diego Costa, Griezmann and the rest of Atleti. Petr Cech is still injured and David Ospina will most likely take the gloves should Cech fail to prove his fitness.

Arsene Wenger named the side most likely to play Atletico against West Ham, in order to gain fluency and battle-readiness. So that would mean starts for Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi, but there are a few variables that might shift the side.

Firstly, there is the injury to Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian could well be out for a few weeks and this means that Granit Xhaka will have no defensive cover compared to when he partners Elneny, so the Swiss midfielder will have to be at his very best to combat the runs of Saul Niguez.

Then there is Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere. Both missed the hammering of the Hammers in the weekend – Ozil through illness and Jack via a knock – and with Mkhitaryan still not fit – it means that if Ozil is still not recovered, we could have a playmaker shortage. If Jack can’t prove his fitness, then our midfield could be short too.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles proved that he is an able stand-in when he came on to replace the injured Elneny, and the youngster could well get the nod to give our side that much-needed cover at the back. Wenger will know a single away goal could rule out any dreams of a final shot, so he could keep it tight and pack the midfield.

Atletico were going to be bereft of Diego Costa, but the former Chelsea man has miraculously recovered to take his place back in the side. Juan is definitely out though so at least if we spread the play to the flanks we could get some joy.

This game could be decided in the first leg. If we have one of our games where we concentrate on our attack and our press – you know the games where we pull a result out of the bag and get a win when we’re very much expected to lose – then we could take a very favourable scoreline into the tie at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

If we concede though, we could crumble.

There is at least an air of excitement in the fanbase though, with a last four Euro tie being somewhat of a novelty of late. Let’s hope we can continue our adventure and pull one of our famous results out of the bag.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Welbeck, Ozil, Iwobi, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

CSKA Moscow Vs Arsenal: Europa League Match Preview

We travel to Moscow for the second leg of our Europa League Quarter-Final to take on CSKA Moscow again, with a valuable 4-1 scoreline giving us clear sight of the Semi-Finals.

CSKA Vs Arsenal 2nd Leg of our Quarter-Final

The first leg score may be advantageous, but it is not conclusive. The away goal scored by Golovin direct from a free kick was deserved if we are honest, as they caused us problems regularly, usually through the vibrant Ahmed Musa. On a different night they could have had two or three, and it is good evidence that they could score an early goal and heap the pressure on.

With a partisan atmosphere to contend with and the pressure of an attacking team bearing down on us, the night could get messy.

Objectively, we could and should have scored six or seven. We created chances at will seemingly, and our opponents had no answer to the creativity of Mesut Ozil for the majority of the game.

The bottom line for this fixture is that if we attack early on, and we score, CSKA will then need four goals to force extra time.

We need to be on the front foot – especially seeing as the combined age of their defence is the actual age of creatures hailing from the Cretaceous era. We can kill this game off early and then rotate for a tough game this Sunday at Newcastle. We have won three away games in the League all season and we need every resource we have in order to better that.

If we score in Moscow, the game is over.
Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey are set to return to the side, and with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied, Alexandre Lacazette is our go-to Europa League striker. Granit Xhaka didn’t travel with the squad as he is sick with flu, so Elneny or Jack could start alongside Ramsey.

Two players who have played their way into contention are Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi. their respective displays against a spirited Southampton side last weekend were welcome returns to form for the pair, and they almost single-handedly rescued us from dropping points. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan out for what looks like the remainder of the season, they both are in with a shout of a start.

David Ospina is still out, so Petr Cech will take the gloves instead of our designated cup keeper. Aside from these changes, the lineup pretty much picks itself. One piece of good news for the coming weekend though, is that the red card Mohamed Elneny received in our win over Southampton last week has been rescinded by the FA, and it dissolves the three match ban the Egyptian was due to suffer.

CSKA will have to attack to salvage anything from this tie, but an early goal changes the whole game. We’ll need to be on our game at both ends of the pitch, but we can cut them to ribbons if we need to. Let’s hope we kill their hopes early and save all of us Gooners the coronaries that normally come with a high-stakes tie.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere, Welbeck, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal