Tag Archives: champions league

Coronavirus To Wreak Long-Term Havoc?

The Covid-19 virus is sweeping across the globe. Being easily transferable, mass gatherings are being winked out as easily as a lamplight.

And the Premier League is no different.

As I write, our Head Coach has declared that he has the virus. Thus, anyone in direct contact with Arteta – the majority of the squad, the staff and those at Hale End – will also undergo self-isolation.

We are not the only club with affected players and coaching staff. Both Leicester and Chelsea have stated that the virus has reached their respective camps. As things stand, the bout of impending weekend fixtures look destined to be cancelled.

This is only the start though.

The NBA season, Pro14 Rugby season, F1 season-opening Grand Prix, golf, tennis and many more have all decided to either postpone the season or play behind closed doors.

It does give us some form of perspective for the Premier League, however. It shows us how precarious the scheduling is, how tightly packed our matches are and the slim margin for error.

If we cancel two or three match weekends, we also have to factor in the remaining FA Cup matches, the Champions League, the Europa League too. This will all have to be squeezed into a frame of time normally reserved for recuperation for players and international squads preparation for the upcoming Euro 2020 tournament – another event that looks decidedly dicey.

Playing games behind closed doors is an option no one wants to consider.

Emirates Stand

The possible domino effect could ripple outwards for quite some distance, affecting next season and beyond. At present, coaches and clubs already bemoan the sandwiching of games into miniscule timeframes. In order to clear this match clutter miasma up, this will get worse before it gets better.

From Euro2020 most likely being delayed for a month or until 2021, you then get the Premier League delaying next season. This in turn will affect all domestic and European trophies too, not to mention our European league brethren who are currently shut down until further notice.

There seems to be no alternative but to postpone these matches for a period of around 3-4 weeks. According to medical reports, the virus on these shores has still not reached its peak so a huge pool of 50-60,000 in one place is not exactly common sense.

This will get worse before it gets better and it is now time for the bureaucrats of the Premier League and the FA to start earning their corn. They should already have had crisis plans in place but they now need to ensure that damage is limited and our players are not forced to play beyond their means. That means a close watch on fixture burnout and fitness being compromised in aid of fulfilling TV schedules.

We can only watch on as we wait for the dust to settle, but right now we are watching the tornado whip its way toward us and we have no way of swerving it.

Emery’s Second Season

It eventually came down to the finest of margins.

Our last two matches in the Premier League and the Europa League final.

After more than fifty matches throughout the season, it boiled down to how we would perform in 270 minutes.

If we won all three?

It would mean a return to Champions League football at the first time of asking from Emery – and a big shiny European trophy to boot.

We would be competing in the summer for the European Super Cup, we would have banished our European hoodoo and announced our comeback to the big stage in the best possible way.

Instead, we were treated to an insipid 1-1 draw at home to Brighton, followed by a win over Burnley (too little, too late by this point) and then a calamitous performance in Baku where we were sent back to London with our tail between our legs by Chelsea.

From where we sit now, looking back, hindsight really does bring things into focus.

We could be remembering what constituted to be a wonderful season, culminating in a win over our London rivals on a European stage, lifting the Europa League.

We could be looking forward to a return of that famous Champions League anthem and more importantly, the extra clout and transfer budget that comes with inclusion of the European Cup.

Unai Emery would be looked upon as taking us in the right direction, instead of doubts on whether he is the right man for the job.

Never mind a little common sense – we missed out on all of the above because of our own failings!

It would be fantastic if everybody could take the equivalent of a mental cold shower, and look at things from a different perspective.

Yes, it is our own fault that we are in what is now a compromising position thanks to missing out on the Champions League.

However, have we not closed the gap?

Has Emery not made progress on where were when he took over – with largely the same squad that Arsene Wenger had?

 

sevilla-unai-emery_3286561
Woah there, gib me a shance!! 

 

We missed out on the top four by a solitary point. We missed out on the top3 by two points. Despite us picking up just one win on the home straight, we still only fell short by the finest of margins.

Jurgen Klopp, the buck-toothed, bespectacled coach heralded by all as a genius, finished in eighth spot in his first season.

Granted, he was then awarded a wad of cash to spend to revitalise his squad, but it shows what margins a new coach can bring. Klopp didn’t manage to do much in his first season, other than probably the most important factor – one that isn’t instantly tangible.

The roots of his tactics, his famous press, the demanding fitness ability that all players had to adhere to? That was instilled in that disappointing first season. The window of transition from where they were, to where they can now adapt their formation and tactics dynamically? That takes time.

Emery too, needs the time to ensure his tactics are bedded in. That press we saw in the games we flickered to life? The wins over Chelsea, spurs, United? That is what we can now expect next season, albeit a lot more frequently.

We dropped off constantly last season, our defence struggled to adapt to new instructions, plus last season began with two tough fixtures, which in turn put pressure on subsequent games.

Emery will be under no illusions regarding who he needs in and shipped out in order to strengthen and carry out his formulas into battle. The list will already be drawn up, and pre-season will see us again begin to hit the cardio emphatically in order to maintain the lung-bursting orders from Emery. The very same orders that will see us improve once again.

Our fanbase needs a dose of realism. Emery, nay, all coaches, need a window of time to instil their own virtues. Even the mightiest of oaks still need years to flower.

Yes, our transfer activity may not be as it should be for a club of our standing, but as we are self-sustaining, we can only spend what we make. We cleared around £40m last season?

Well, that’s how much we’ve got to work with.

Fear not though. Emery’s expertise will start to show next season. His excellent pedigree wasn’t obtained in a cereal packet, he earned it and if given time, he can show us how.

We have to support, rather than call into question everything.

At the end of the season, when the dust settles, let’s see where we are.

 

What Makes A Good Season For Emery?

The slate has been wiped clean.

 

No preconceptions, no existing variables that can temper an end result.

 

This season will be hard to gauge for this very reason, but what constitutes a good season for Unai Emery’s new regime?

Unai-Emery-716003

The Spaniard has spent a moderate amount of money to reinforce a squad that appeared threadbare in Wenger’s final season. Normally, the amount spent correlates to a certain amount of pressure on the coach, but Emery seems to be exempt from this.

 

The reason for this? Probably because of what Emery inherited. He had a team that could only crane their neck upwards at the top places. We had certain top quality players, but we were lopsided. If the squad stayed as it was from last season, then any coach would struggle to contend for a Champions League place.

 

So, is that the barometer now for Emery? Does the Spanish coach need to reach the top4 in order for this season to be gauged a success?

 

Maybe not.

 

Whatever is achieved or not, whether Emery’s first campaign is viewed as successful is entirely subjective.  Some may view a mere improvement on last season as a good season for us.

 

Some may demand a return to European football’s pinnacle in order for our new coach to be able to claim progress.

 

What of a trophy though?

 

If we simply maintained our position of 6th from last term, but we lifted either the FA Cup or, preferably, the Europa League?  Would this constitute success to most of us?

 

Emery has a battle on his hands in terms of duking it out on the league front, with our rivals reinforcing their sides from the ones who finished above us last season. If he brought us Champions League football then it would be a return to where we belong, but it would also be a return to a competition that we have no real chance of winning.

 

The Europa League is a breath of fresh air as we are going into it with genuine hopes of winning the trophy. It would also be the biggest European trophy we will have won. It’s a wonderful feeling, the intoxicating nights midweek when knockout football means all or nothing, but we have a fair chance of actually progressing to the next round.

 

Emery is a well-documented specialist in this competition – the rest schedule, the level required – and he will indeed push his squad to make the most of the chance to give us memories we can’t forget.

 

If Emery was to win a trophy in his first season, it would make his debut campaign instantly memorable. His new tactics are taking time to bed in though, so should we take this into account?

 

Patience is hard to apply when losses are coming thick and fast. but we haven’t merely changed a manager. Our whole style on the pitch is changing. Pressing, moving, fitness, defence, passing – all changing, and this demands time. When the finished article is present and polished, then we can judge, but right  now?

 

That’s like going to view your new car when it’s being constructed – and then passing judgement over it.

 

We are a work in progress, and if we are competing with our rivals, then that could be viewed as satisfactory for this season.

 

What constitutes a success for Emery then this season?

 

Get us back to where we can go into a game against the clubs expected to finish above us, and have a sliver of optimism that doesn’t feel ludicrous to suggest out loud. We want Arsenal back where we belong.

 

A trophy would be nice, but this season neews to show the buds of new beginnings. That should be enough for the majority of us.

Arsenal Vs Sunderland Preview

Kickoff – 1945GMT

Despite our impressive recent run in the League, the illustrious top4 spot is out of our hands after Liverpool crushed West Ham 4-0 on Sunday.

It means that even if we win our last two games, if Klopp’s team beat Middlesbrough in their last game in the weekend, then we will miss out on the Champions League next season. 

It doesn’t look rosy for our prospects, and our returning form has come a little too late to rescue our bid for European Cup qualification. While there is a chance though, the games we have must be won, so next up is already relegated Sunderland.

The temptation to take the foot off the gas when facing a team already consigned to relegation is large, but the Black Cats showed when they faced Hull that now the pressure is off, they are more than capable of producing something.  

This is also the fifth game in just 17 days, so rotation may well come into play. Will the players give everything to the cause in a bid to earn a starting spot for the FA Cup Final? Or will they seek to preserve themselves and avoid any injury before such a big game? 

One worry is Alexis Sanchez. In imperious form against Stoke, the Chilean faces a fitness test before the game tonight, but Laurent Koscielny returned to the team against Stoke, whether he will be risked again is another thing. Wenger stated that Koscielny has a little reoccurrence of the calf injury which kept him out of the Southampton game – I would hazard a guess that Gabriel may slot in to keep Koscielny wrapped in cotton wool before Everton and Chelsea.

Rob Holding performed exceptionally well against the Potters, and we fans have a new song for the impressive youngster. The second season syndrome may kick in for Holding, but his composure and talent is shining right now, and he has fully earned his spot in the team. Kieran Gibbs is back in contention but The Ox is still out with his hamstring. 

This game gives a few the chance to get back into favour, and Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin could all start the game. The health of our squad is strong, but they should know they have underperformed this campaign. 

Sunderland boss David Moyes will be looking for his charges to prove to him they are worth keeping, and the ones looking to escape will be looking to put themselves in the shop window. The Black Cats will be up for the game and it is not a foregone conclusion, even if us Gooners will be fully expecting maximum points.

We need the win if we are to take the top4 fight into the final game. Sunderland have won just one game in their last six, and scored four goals in the process. David Moyes is facing the heat from Mackem fans, but the continuity in place if he stays will stand them in good stead in the choppy waters of the Championship. He also will be keen to keep hold of some of the players who have not let him down, such as Khazri, Watmore and Cattermole. It is a foregone conclusion that his starman, Jermain Defoe, will be on the move in the summer though. The 34 year old striker has proved that even in a struggling team he can find the net with regularity, and teams in the PL know that finding a striker who can give them regular goals is a hard task indeed. A bidding war in the summer?

So, Arsene Wenger needs another win to keep up the chase on Liverpool. Our form and Sunderland’s spell out only one possible result, but we all know the Premier League doesn’t work out like that!

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Holding, Gabriel, Coquelin, Ramsey, Bellerin, Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck, Giroud. 

Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Bayern Munich – The Preview

This match is exactly what the football doctor ordered. 

After our poor performance at Anfield in the weekend, falling out of the Champions League places and our star player reportedly rowing with the rest of the squad, the visit of German giants Bayern Munich is not the best opportunity for returning to some semblance of form.

The first leg of this Last16 tie saw hope quickly vanish for the Gunners once Laurent Koscielny went off through injury, as within nine minutes of the captain leaving the field, Bayern had scored three goals.

This tie is beyond any realistic hope of rescue, but a win over Ancelotti’s men could restore some pride and some momentum after recent results have ground the cannon to a halt.

Arsenal will more than likely play their strongest side, even if this game could be perceived as a dead rubber. Mesut Ozil has been ruled out again through illness, but what of Alexis Sanchez? Surely, even if the Chilean is at odds with some teammates, Sanchez must play?

Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka did not put up a good account of themselves against Liverpool, and with Aaron Ramsey now fit and raring to go, the Welshman must be a good shout for a start. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also playing well, could we see a wholly different midfield combo? 

Alex Iwobi has been indifferent of late, but with regular playmaker Ozil already confirmed as missing, the man known as ‘Big17’ will more than likely retain his place. Olivier Giroud returned to the side in our last match, but a lack of service did not help the Frenchman in his bid to hold down a spot. Will Arsene again opt for a direct approach?

Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez have performed admirably in their last appearances, and the England striker and Spaniard must be hoping for a chance. They cannot do much more, although with Welbeck having played only three days ago, Wenger may opt to conserve his fitness.

On the face of things, with our squad so strong in numbers, the odds of rotation and to include hungry players is strong. Perhaps a shake up to remind some players their place isn’t guaranteed is exactly what is needed.

There are no signs Carlo Ancelotti is taking this tie lightly despite already having one foot in the Quarter-Finals. Mats Hummels, Franck Ribery, Xabi Alonso and Arjen Robben were all rested in the weekend and all are expected to feature. 

Arsenal do possess a great record at The Emirates in the Champions League, but the majority of the losses they have incurred have been in the knockout stages. There is a sliver of hope though, as Bayern have won one of their last six away games in the Champions League. 

Slim our hopes may be, but we have beaten them before, and we can do again. We will not progress, that chance was dropped in the first leg, but we can win and remind everyone – including our own players – that we are capable of so much more.

A protest is planned before the game and banners will apparently be displayed during the game. Whether we agree or not with the methods, we have all witnessed a lot of games where we have been sub-par. We are all at our limit, and some display their displeasure in different ways. As long as the team is supported during the game then that is all that matters.

I will be attending the game and you can expect a detailed match report after the match, and I can expect a hoarse voice the next day as I will do what I always do when I go to the game – I will sing and chant until my throat cannot take any more.

Predicted Lineup; Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Theo, Iwobi, Alexis, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – Call me crazy, but I’m going for a 2-0 win. 

The Champions League – What Makes a Euro Giant?

When you think of the football clubs that would be the equivalent of a footballing superpower, there are certain clubs that spring to mind.

For good reason too. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich are the three that are top of the tree when musing upon which club has the most clout, the most illustrious history and crucially – the biggest haul of silverware.

This years European Cup has now separated the wheat from the proverbial chaff, and the rollcall for the knockout stages has the same familiar faces of previous years. The aforementioned trio of Euro behemoths will be taking part as they always do, but they won’t have everything their own way.

There are a host of clubs with liberal sprinklings of stars within their team that can hurt the conglomerate that is Real, Bayern and Barca. The odds for the potential winners of this years Cup is interesting reading, and shows that in terms of stature, the chasing pack are catching up.

What exactly sees a successful club transform into a giant? To start, the respective number of European trophies would be top of the list. Any club that can boast of European honours can show that they not only earned the right to play in Europe by beating their domestic rivals, but they also overcame the cream of the continent. So what club has the most European honours?

No surprise to see Real Madrid and Barcelona in the top 3 of the list, with 19 and 14 respectively, but Bayern Munich have amassed 10 and are 7th on the list. Above them are teams such as Ajax, AC Milan and Liverpool – teams who have failed to maintain a constant presence in Europe’s premier competition.

Do former glories count as much as the present? If so, then Liverpool would be able to claim some part of the dominion that Real, Barca and co currently hold. Ditto AC Milan, who in the 90’s – and were a pretty big deal in the noughties – alone held Europe within their tight grasp. 

These clubs though, have faltered on the domestic front. Liverpool especially have been unable to jump over the first hurdle to ensure their membership for the ‘Giant Club’ is not revoked. The Merseysiders, Milan and Manchester United more recently, have not been able to make a dent in their home countries league. Liverpool have not won a title since 1990, can they really claim to be part of the European heavyweight scene?

Some part of the equation is financial heft. Like it or not, Chelsea and Manchester City have muscled their way into the scene and now compete on a near equal footing to the Barca’s and Bayern’s of this collective. They regularly lift silverware on the domestic front and now have European delights firmly within their reticule. Do they now qualify as a giant even though their previous decades were far from glorious?

Other variables should warrant a mention too. A global fanbase generates interest around the world and more importantly, it ups the amount of income a club gets. If this is included, then Arsenal, United, Real and Barca can renew their membership cards to the Giant Club. 

The only clubs that can really tick the boxes on all of these comprising factors is the first three clubs I mentioned. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona have trophies in their past, present and more than likely, their future. They contend every year at the top, they have more than enough pulling power in terms of fiscal amount and they can look upon their trophy cabinet with a smile and an empty can of polish.

This season will be no different, as will the next. If a club truly wants to elevate their standing, they need a glittering history, a well stocked trophy cabinet, a revenue stream that allows the club to duke it out in the transfer market, and a regular presence in the Champions League.

Which club will make that leap this season? The Champions League is wide open, but rest assured if any team has genuine aspirations, then they will surely have to beat one of the big three. 

Basel Vs Arsenal – Champions League Preview

Upon first inspection, this game could be viewed as something of a dead rubber.

Arsenal travel to Switzerland safe in the knowledge that they have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. Basel entertain the Gunners having notched only two points from the group. Not only that, but even if Arsene Wenger’s side leave St Jakob Park with all three points it will matter little if PSG match their result against Ludogorets.

There is still a small chance that the Gunners could finish top of their group though, and while that remains, Wenger could field what will be a very strong side.

Common sense should dictate otherwise, especially as on Saturday we take on a resurgent Stoke side – and three days later we travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton. With these matches posing far more of a threat to our hopes of success, the squad will come into play fully over the next week.

This fixture flurry would have been a larger cause for concern in years gone by, but the pool of players we can choose from is stronger than before and this will be reflected in the teamsheets for the aforementioned games. 

Coming fresh from the 5-1 thumping of West Ham should fill the team full of confidence, and compensate for the disruption that is inevitably caused by rotating the playing staff.

Hat-trick hero Alexis Sanchez could well be rested for this game, and this could give a great opportunity to Lucas Perez who has recently returned from injury. The other choice would be the fit-again Olivier Giroud who has ample experience in the competition. 

What is perhaps most telling is Arsene Wenger’s own comments from the pre-match press conference. He spoke of his sides preperation and about finishing second or first in the group. He said ” We’ll see. PSG are favourites to beat Ludogorets at home and win the group, but we can assess that scoreline at half-time and see where we go.” 

The part regarding assessing the scoreline at half-time could be construed that he plans to name his strongest players for the game, and if PSG have wrapped up their game then he will make the necessary changes. Or maybe he is holding his cards close to his chest?

Regardless, players such as Mohamed Elneny, Carl Jenkinson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi can expect some form of involvement, such is the wealth of talent we possess within our ranks. Elneny and Granit Xhaka in particular will be hoping to make the team to face off against their former club. Xhaka faced off against his former teammates and his brother Taulant in the corresponding fixture which the Gunners won 2-0 at The Emirates and he will surely be hoping for a repeat result. Theo Walcott scored a first half brace to win that game, but will he be rested with the Stoke game in the corner of Arsene’s eye? Can we afford to bench too many of our established stars?

Basel will be a real test though. They have won their last three home games against English sides, and the Gunners have not finished a group campaign unbeaten since 2005/06. Objectively though, Arsenal have never finished on the losing side against Swiss opposition. One of these records have to budge – especially when you consider that the Gunners have not had a 0-0 draw in the Champions League groups since 2007. 

So Arsene has a dilemma, but one that should be easy enough to solve. The squad strength should allow him to hedge his bets even a little for this game, while simultaneously being able to preserve his side for the game against the Potters in the weekend. 

A loss will be harmful, but an injury to key personnel would be potentially fatal to our hopes of any silverware. Sensible rotation is key.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mustafi, Gibbs, Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Iwobi, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal

Arsenal Vs PSG – Champions League Preview

This match will decide who finishes top of Champions League Group A – and therefore has a better chance of progression in the knockout stages by avoiding the big guns.

Arsenal host Ligue Un champions Paris Saint Germain, and both teams will look to field their strongest sides despite fixture congestion starting to up the strain on squads in Europe.

So, the reward for victory is sizeable, but the sacrifices that must be made will come in the form of fatigue. Arsene Wenger’s squad is well covered in all positions, so the rigours of a game every three days should be well within their vast capabilities.

That being said, rotation will be key in the coming weeks, so the team that Wenger names will be strong, but may include the odd surprise after the insipid performance in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United in the weekend. 

Wenger’s continuation with ‘Cup Keepers’ will continue, so that means a return for David Ospina. The Colombian was the hero of the corresponding fixture, a 1-1 draw that was anything but equal on the pitch. PSG slayed the Gunners in everything but scoreline, but the one-man barricade otherwise known as Ospina blocked, deflected and stopped nearly everything that came his way – and that was a lot.

PSG will feel hard done by with not achieving victory the first time around, but they have another chance to rectify that result at The Emirates tonight. Surely our team will turn up this time around?

Our team will have to perform better than their last outings, as the draws with United and tottenham were toothless in nature. So, will Wenger ring the changes?

Aside from Ospina in for Cech, Bellerin and Santi Cazorla will still be missing from the lineup – as well as long-term absentees Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck. There is good news for Spanish forward Lucas Perez, who has returned to training well ahead of schedule, although a return to the first team may be some weeks yet.

In terms of who will take to the field, a similar team to the one who travelled to Old Trafford will be expected. The only bones of contention will be who plays on the left of attack – as Aaron Ramsey exhibited his rustiness against United. 

Will Ramsey be dropped altogether? Or could he be moved into midfield at the expense of either Mohamed Elneny or Francis Coquelin – who did not impose themselves in the same match. Granit Xhaka came on as a late substitute and will have some say on selection, but it was his fellow late swaps that have a larger claim to play in this game.

It was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who made the equaliser with his gumption and forward thinking – something we were severely lacking. His distribution found the lurking Olivier Giroud who finished well. Both players may just get the nod, but if Giroud does play, then Alexis will move to the left and The Ox will vie with Walcott for the right spot.

Alexis could be rested altogether, after a gruelling few weeks and a large amount of strapping applied to his thigh is testament that the Chilean wonder is hurting, even a little. An injured Alexis is not good news for the club, so a spell on the bench – at least for this match – may be on the cards. 

So many variables, and all this conjecture has done is confuse things. We can be sure that the team will be strong, and top spot is very much on the radar, and that is about it.

PSG won’t be able to call upon the services of Serge Aurier, as he was mystifyingly refused passage to the UK. The problems grow for the Parisians, as Angel Di Maria did not finish the weekend’s domestic game, and is a huge doubt for the game. With Adrien Rabiot and Javier Pastore both doubtful, the creative flow of PSG could be halted before kickoff. 

They will still be packed full of talent, but this match is a great opportunity to grab some much needed confidence and also to remind PSG that we are more than a match for them. 

Top spot in the group, pride, and a better set of odds for getting past the Last16 are all up for grabs. It is time to end the November blues. Let’s get back to winning ways.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Theo, Ozil, Ox, Giroud. 

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal. 

Ludogorets Vs Arsenal – Champions League Preview


Only in action three days ago, Arsenal continue to plough through the fixture congestion with another match, this time in the Champions League versus Ludogorets.


































The corresponding fixture at The Emirates saw a hatful of goals for the Gunners, and the 6-0 scoreline will see the Bulgarian champions keen to avoid such a massacre in front of their own fans.


Mesut Ozil was the architect that night, scoring his first hat-trick in professional football, and the German will be at the forefront of Arsenal’s pursuit of top spot in the group


With such a large amount of matches, the team sheet will no doubt see changes – especially as the weekend’s Premier League game is the North London Derby. Arsene Wenger will no doubt have one eye on this game, but he has ample players at his disposal and rotation should mean both games can be tackled with confidence.


Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud made their welcome returns from injury last week, and both could start this game, as their positional rivals have played three games in a week. Alexis Sanchez and Mohamed Elneny may just miss out as over-exertion could be an issue, or Francis Coquelin could be benched. The centre of midfield is hotly contested, with those three plus Granit Xhaka vying for roles – the Swiss international has seen out his three match ban and will be looking to play as soon as possible.


There are injury doubts however. Santi Cazorla had a fitness test in the weekend and didn’t travel with the squad, and Theo Walcott is another who was left home in order to keep fitness levels topped up and injuries fully healed.


Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has deputised well in Walcott’s absence, and he seems to have found consistency to ally with his tremendous talent. He should retain his place in the side, as well as Alex Iwobi. Carl Jenkinson made his first appearance of the season in last weeks EFL Cup win over Reading, and he may just get the nod over Hector Bellerin – such is the Spaniard’s importance to the team and the fact that Wenger intimated in his press conference that he may well be rested. 


David Ospina will continue as the club’s Champions League goalkeeper, and Nacho Monreal has returned to full fitness, although Kieran Gibbs should keep his place.


So many players to choose from, which means Wenger can shuffle accordingly and put out teams for the hotly contested London derby on Saturday, as well as this fixture in Sofia that will have a huge bearing on who nabs that important top spot in the group. 


Even with all of these prospective changes, it is testament to Arsenal’s strength in depth that all positions have more than adequate cover, which allows a breather for the game changers in the team.


Ludogorets, despite the first fixture ending in humiliating defeat, are no pushovers, and will be looking for revenge. They have some players who can cause real damage, and Jonathan Cafu will be looking to add a few extra zero’s to his potential transfer figure.


The Gunners have maintained their excellent run, but Gooners are painfully aware that November usually brings an annual dose of misery – it is Wenger’s least successful month on average.


Can Arsenal end their November hoodoo? Can they continue to go toe-to-toe with PSG in the pursuit of their Champions League group top spot?


This season shows no sign of slowing down, and the action continues tonight!


Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Elneny, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Iwobi, Giroud.


Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal.

Arsenal 6-0 Ludogorets – 5 Keypoints From the Match

Arsenal continued to impress and exhibit the form which has seen only one loss in the last seven months, as they hit Bulgarians Ludogorets Razgrad for six in the Champions League.

The Gunners, who lie in second place in the Premier League and are only goal difference away from top spot, took 1st place in Group A from Paris Saint Germain with this demolition, and their frontline on this form will send timely reminders to all rivals that they must be taken seriously.

Prior to kickoff, the fixture congestion which sees Arsene Wenger’s side play seven games in twenty one days was the hot topic. Rotation of a squad finally able to deal with the rigours of such demanding calendars would be required, and Wenger mixed his side up, whilst keeping the bulk of a team which had performed well since the start of the season.

David Ospina once again came in to the side for his own personal European adventure, and Keiran Gibbs replaced a jaded Nacho Monreal. Granit Xhaka, despite being available for selection after being sent off in the 3-2 win over Swansea, was left out. Francis Coquelin returned to the side to marshall the midfield alongside Santi Cazorla, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came in for Alex Iwobi on the left of the attack.

Alexis once more ploughed a lone furrow up top, and concerns over yet another game for the Chilean rose to the fore, with calls for Lucas Perez to come into the side. 

We should be glad Wenger doesn’t listen to us.

A Mesut Ozil hat-trick, a wonderful finish from Theo Walcott, a confidence-boosting goal for The Ox and a beautiful goal from Alexis to start the ball rolling showed that the spirit is high in the Gunners camp. The attack which has reaped so effectively so far this season once again clicked into gear, and if form can be maintained as well as fitness, the omens are good for a successful season.

There was so much to take from this handsome victory, but here are 5 of the key points from this action-packed game:-



Mesut Ozil resides on a higher plain





























We have all watched his Arsenal highlights reel ad infinitum, but this match perhaps highlighted what is sometimes overlooked – even when he isn’t firing on all cylinders, Ozil is still integral to us and operates on a level that few can comprehend.His hat-trick – his first in professional football – was sumptuous finishing and mixed power with unerring accuracy. The third ingredient which rendered the Ludogorets keeper useless was Ozil’s adaptability, choosing the right type of finish at the right time. The thing is though, that at times, Mesut’s touch deserted him and he wasn’t quite at the races. Just imagine when he finally hits his mark….



Alexis must be used to the max






































Top players rarely miss games. The men who break records, carry their team and forge reputations play the majority of their sides games. So, as our games come thick and fast, one of our star players must be in the team. If Alexis says he is fit and ready, then he must play. The difference he can make is massive, and he broke the deadlock in this game with a piece of skill and lob that was outrageous. The Chilean will no doubt maintain he should play this Saturday too – and if he is fit, then get him on that pitch. 



Coquelin returns with a bang









































Francis Coquelin has made a swift recovery from his knee injury, and the manner in which he returned to the side speaks volumes. It was a shaky start for the whole side, despite being a goal up – and it was Coquelin who provided the shield which the side needed. He was a one-man wrecking show, and his hunger for the ball was palpable. He is still the best tackling midfielder we have, and even though Granit Xhaka has taken the plaudits this season, Coquelin’s role in this season will be telling. 


A high line versus a counter-attacking team?

We scored an early goal, which was part of the script, but we then began to ad-lib. Instead of pressing our boot further down on our opposition, we decided to lighten our grip. We also failed to adapt our defensive tactics with our shift in tactics, as we kept the high-line of an attacking side whilst not actually having possession. Ludogorets could have rewritten the whole game, but found David Ospina in fine form. Our defence could have made it easier for their keeper, if they had sat back a few yards. Something to work on at Colney.



Credit to The Ox

I have been disparaging about Oxlade-Chamberlain in the past. My opinion is that there has been very little growth shown from the boy since he was bought. The flashes of genius he shows regularly, more often than not are followed by losing possession. His goal in this ame though, the positions he picked up, are causes for optimism. He still lost the ball, but there were far more positives to his display than usual. Playing alongside the delights of Ozil and Sanchez will always benefit a player. Hopefully he is finally blossoming into the player we all believe he can be. He certainly needs to show improvement. This game represents the first step. 

A game that was bereft of negatives, and even the lesser-spotted Lucas Perez got on to the pitch and offered an assist! This game is simpl one to wallow in and savour. It isn’t often our team plays and wins without anything to quibble over. 

Another win, and the confidence keeps soaring. Keep it up boys.