‘The Champions!.. der der derder’
Champions League football is back on the menu again as Arsenal come face to face with our toughest fixture of the Group stages, at least that is the case on paper.
That said, paper could well be misleading this time. PSG have not started the season well, they have a new coach and have injuries. They drew 1-1 against Saint-Etienne at home on Friday, a game you would expect them to win but a quick glance at their squad and it is clear to see that there is plenty of top quality able to hurt us. I looked at Southampton’s form before they played us and I was expecting us to brush them aside with little fuss, massively naive right? I know.
It doesn’t really matter how they have started this season or what patched up side they put out, our performance will determine what sort of chance we have of picking up 1 or 3 points out in France.
It was interesting to look through their list and see a number of familiar faces. It is almost like a squad for the Arsenal fan managers out there. Serge Aurier, Adrien Rabiot, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Edinson Cavani. All that was needed was to swoop for Scott Dann and Victor Wanyama to bolster the squad and we'd be all set.
Jokes aside, PSG have some quality from wide areas. Angel di Maria, Lucas Moura and Hatem Ben Arfa looks really tasty. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal will have to be at their best to keep those guys quiet, hopefully they will have to force them to run the other way for parts of the game too.
So I am really intrigued to know what Arsene is going to do with our line up. Clearly he had this game in mind when he picked the line up against Southampton. But it’s quite difficult to predict what he may do.
The obvious returning player will be Alexis Sanchez and I suppose the obvious guy to come out will be Oxlade-Chamberlain. I wouldn’t be surprised to see us try and play a team who are better equipped to keep the ball.
Granit Xhaka has been in and out of the side and if you look carefully, he was rarely included in our strongest teams during the pre season while Francis Coquelin has consistently been in the team, playing alongside various partners. Now is this because Xhaka lacks fitness? has not adjusted to the speed of our game? or some other reason. I don't realy know but it certainly cannot be anything to do with the Euros as players who progressed further are already starting regular games (Ozil and Koscileny for example)
Maybe a Champions League match will suit him better at this stage, I hope so because I think we will be better able to play our game with his passing qualities deeper. What he’s like without the ball against a good team I feel will answer all the questions at this stage of his short Arsenal career.
Another one of life’s mysteries is that of Mohamed Elneny. When he had adjusted to our game, he stayed in the team and performed very well. Arsene even pushed Coquelin out of the team and the boss played Elneny in a more defensive position, a position that arguably isn’t his strongest. This time round, Elneny cannot get a look in while the man he replaced has pretty much always been first choice since pre season.
I’ve read a lot of people assuming that Giruod will come into the team in place of Perez but I have a sneaky feeling that Giroud will be held back further. Would Arsene go back to what worked best at Watford? Was his talk of Alexis as a striker just good management at the time to get the best out of his player or does he still see that as a viable option? I dunno really.
Mean Lean’s Predicted Line Up:
After what I’ve said, that line up looks slightly unrealistic but it would make sense to me. Alexis will play somewhere in the front three that much is obvious, Elneny can keep the ball and add running power. But equally Santi Cazorla could start the game again. He did not play for Spain in the internationals so perhaps his legs are up to the job. We will see tonight I guess. Iwobi was fantastic in Barcelona last season so I would not worry too much if he was on the left flank.
Every time I’ve watched Cavani is recent seasons he has been bloody awful, like shockingly bad so wouldn’t it be typical if he found his range tonight, at least we have Laurent Koscielny tasked with keeping him out, that always makes me feel better against good strikers.
A draw tonight would be a very good result I reckon even if PSG are not quite the force they were last season so far. Just as important as a good result will be an improved performance from the weekend, perhaps closer to the first half we produced at Watford before the break.
Arsenal will not be favourites tonight which might be good for us, I'm sure sign up bonuses or best free bets would be quite helpful for those willing to back the Arsenal tonight. If we click into gear then there is no reason why we cannot win this one.
As I am not on holiday or ill anymore, there will be some post match stuff this time.