So it's back to Champions League action for Arsenal tonight as they play the fourth game in their group away to Shakhtar Donetsk. The players made the long trip east yesterday and us fans who follow Jack Wilshere on Twitter were treated to photos of the players making that journey. It was interesting to see the players he took photos of were Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Craig Eastmond and Henri Lansbury, who are all very young and relatively new to the squad like him.
Having beaten Shakhtar 5-1 at home two weeks ago I'm sure there will be an element of revenge in this game for our opponents. When the draw was made for the group they were seen as our biggest challengers and that defeat at the Emirates would have hurt them. They won their first two games and they will know that a victory tonight will more or less guarantee them a place in the knock out stages, along with Arsenal. However a victory for Arsenal or even a draw tonight and Shakhtar will know that there is still hope for Braga.
The early team news is that Cesc Fabregas didn't make the trip due to a recurrance of his hamstring injury, but it would seem that the measure is only a precaution. The boss said that he could possibly play on Sunday when we take on Newcastle at home in the League. There are also injury doubts over Alex Song, Andrei Arshavin and Denilson and with Arsenal's qualification looking almost certain I wouldn't be surprised if none of them played. The game against Newcastle on Sunday is a very important one if Arsenal are to put pressure on Chelsea who are playing later that day and I think that the boss will want to have his strongest team possible for that game.
With all of that in mind I think we will see quite a few changes and it's possible that a few of the fringe players will get their chance to show what they can do tonight. Personally I'm not so sure that all of the younger players should be thrown in together and I would love to see the likes of JET performing with the rest of the first choice 11 around him. It's very hard to predict a starting team in a situation like this but I wouldn't be surprised to see Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner, Emmanuel Eboue and a few others in the team. In fact the team could be quite similar to the one that played away to Newcastle in the Carling Cup last week.
Arsenal don't have a great record in away trips to eastern Europe despite already winning 3-1 away to Partizan Belgrade in this seasons Champions League group. Some of our worst Champions League results and performances have come in Moscow and Kiev and if we're going to get something out of tonight's game we will have to play very well from the start. The boss will want to find a good balance between youth and experience to try to keep our current run of results going and the older players he picks will have a lot of responsibility tonight.
I think that we will see Samir Nasri playing the playmaker's role that Cesc usually plays and he will probably have Wilshere and Eastmond or Denilson behind him. With Bendtner, Walcott and Rosicky taking up the attacking places I wonder if we will also see Johan Djourou play at the back with Eboue, Laurent Koscielny and Gael Clichy and it's a straight choice between Lukasz Fabianski and Wojceich Szczesny in goal. There have been mumblings from Szczesny about not signing the new contract on offer to him. His contract ends this summer and we could well lose him but the manager seems to think that he will be staying. I don't know if he will get his chance on such a big stage but if he is to stay it's getting his chance in games like this that might just convince him to do so.
I don't know if Shakhtar will throw the kitchen sink at Arsenal from the start as they seemed worried that we would pick them off on the break when we played at home to them. Their plan that night seemed to be to defend in numbers and hope to snatch a goal as so many other teams try to do when they play us. It was all going very well for them until their keeper messed up and they might just feel that they will get something from tonight's game if they keep things tight. Of course they will probably see that Arsenal have a slightly weakened team and realise that this is their chance to get their revenge.
As always I'm predicting an Arsenal win although I think it will be very difficult for them. I'm predicting a 2-1 win with Walcott getting one of the goals and Arsenal wrapping up their qualification with two games left to play. I'll be watching the second half of the match in the supporters club in Bray after I have played football myself. We recently had a wear your Arsenal shirt day on the last bank holiday Monday and there will be various pictures of club members in their shirts on the Wicklow Gunners club site very soon. I'll post a link to those pictures when they are available.
In other news Samir Nasri was named the PFA fans player of the month for October and it's an award that he richly deserves after an excellent month for Arsenal. Young Benik Afobe has joined League One team Huddersfield Town on loan for a month and hopefully he will get a chance to show exactly what he can do. He scored 20 goals in 25 appearances for the Youth team last season and he is thought very highly of at the club.
A fairly weak looking Arsenal reserve team lost for the first time this season as Aston Villa beat them 2-0 on their own patch. With JET, Eastmond and Lansbury on first team duty some of their best performers were unavailable and it would seem that they paid the price for it. It leaves them second in their section in the league but still in with a very good chance of winning it.
Regular readers of my blog will know I've being posting it on Oleole for over two years now and despite it's growth in popularity the technical issues are arising more often on that medium. As a result today's blog was actually written on Blogger for the first time, although I have being posting here for a couple of weeks. If Oleole continues it's downward spiral I'll be moving things permanently to Blogger which is why I've been posting it there recently. I will keep everybody informed and as soon as I post my blog daily you will be able to link to it from Twitter if you're following me.
That's it for today.
See You Tomorrow.