Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Arsenal's Champions League Trip To Anderlecht Previewed

It's hard to figure out where Arsenal's season is going, but already it looks like the FA Cup is their only realistic hope of a trophy. With Chelsea already 11 points ahead of them after only eight games it seems like the Premier League is already beyond them. They're back in Champions League action tonight away to Anderlecht and it's very hard to see them having enough to win the competition.

Qualification from their group should be well within their grasp though and they can almost assure themselves of that with back to back wins over Anderlecht. Arsenal lost their opening game away to Borussia Dortmund, but came back in fine style to win their last game 4-1 at home to Galatasary. That win leaves them in a strong position going into these two games against Anderlect with Galatasary having to play Dortmund twice.

Ideally for Arsenal Galatasary will take a point off Dortmund in those two games and Arsenal will hopefully take all six points off Anderlecht. That would leave Arsenal guaranteed a place in the knock out stages and fighting for top spot in the group with Dortmund. A home win over Dortmund would leave Arsenal needing to win their last game away to Galatasary to win the group, but all of that could be just pie in the sky.

If the performance against Hull on Saturday is anything to go by the two games against Anderlecht are going to be a real struggle. I didn't see the game on Saturday due to other commitments and didn't feel qualified to write about it after only seeing the Match of the Day highlights. I try to be as positive as I can about Arsenal as regular readers will know, but it seems the only positives from the game were the point we managed to salvage and the fact that we have Alexis Sanchez. 

When the transfer window closed it was obvious to one and all that Arsenal had not brought in the defensive midfielder and central defender (or two) which the squad needed to try to compete at the very top. Quite how Thomas Vermaelen was allowed to leave without being replaced is almost beyond me and it's a damning indictment of the club's inability to identify their targets and follow through on them. I know there was some real hope early in the window when Alexis arrived along with Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers, but that early impetus was not built open until Danny Welbeck arrived in the dying minutes of the window and he was only brought in because of the injury to Olivier Giroud.

For me the defence is really missing Bacary Sagna and his ability to play in any defensive position as well as his defensive abilities. I know there was little they could do about Sagna leaving and the injury to Debuchy was unfortunate, but players like Sagna are very difficult to replace. The defence was short of a centre back last season and instead of buying another one Arsenal actually sold one and brought in Chambers who is a young right back with the potential to play in the centre of defence. He has made huge strides already and looks like he will be a stalwart for years to come, but they're asking an awful lot of a young and inexperienced player. Chambers' inexperience has caught him out a few times which led to his five yellow cards so early in the season and his suspension for the Hull game.

At the same time Carl Jenkinson has made his way into the West Ham team on his loan spell from Arsenal and I find it a little hard to fathom out why he was loaned out with such a shortage of defenders at the club. He could certainly have been used against Hull although Hector Bellerin did quite well in his Premier League debut at right back. With only six defenders listed on the club site surely the current situation could have been foreseen and Jenkinson kept at the club for the good of Arsenal.

The latest casualty for Arsenal is David Ospina and his injury couldn't have come at a worse time with Wojciech Szczesny suspended for tonight. Szczesny's red card was incredibly foolish considering Arsenal were 4-0 up at the time and his decision making is still not all it should be. It looks like he will have no competition for the next few months with Ospina's injury and complacency has been his biggest enemy in the past. Young Emiliano Martinez will wear the gloves tonight with even younger Ryan Huddart as the reserve goalkeeper.

At least Chambers will be available to boost the defence, but it doesn't look like Laurent Koscielny will return from his injury. It will be a straight choice between Chambers and Nacho Monreal to play in central defence alongside Per Mertesacker with Chambers to replace Bellerin if he doesn't replace Monreal. With so much change so often in the defence it's very hard to have any cohesion which has been a real hindrance. Let's hope that whatever combination is chosen tonight can find some cohesion and put in a resolute performance.

In midfield it looks like Jack Wilshere will recover from the knock he took on Saturday and will take his place in the team. He has to learn to control his frustration and his temper too and he could well have been sent off for the foul which led to his injury against Hull. He only got a yellow card for that foul, but the way he has been reacting at times this season could well lead to a red card very soon.

I would be surprised if both Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta didn't come back into the team and they will hopefully help Arsenal to control the game. There's plenty of goals in this Arsenal team and they need to start punishing teams more when they are on top. Alexis got the team out of a hole on Saturday and I expect more of the same from him tonight.

There are many fans who doubt Arteta and I do think Arsenal should have signed a top class player to play in his position in the summer. He is still their best option in that position though with Mathieu Flamini making costly mistakes game after game at the moment when he plays. I know he was fouled in the build up to Hull's first goal in Saturday, but he could still have prevented the goal if he kept playing instead of appealing to the referee. He wasn't the only Arsenal player to stop playing and it's something you don't expect to see professional footballers doing. From a very young age players are told to play the whistle, but some Arsenal players certainly didn't do so for that goal. 

We're 13 games into the season and we're still waiting for Arsenal to click into gear. They've only won four of those 13 games in all competitions and it's getting to the stage where the fans are losing belief and it looks like some of the players are too. It's time for them to go out and dominate the opposition and show exactly what they have to offer to Arsenal.

From what I've seen of Anderlecht so far they're not a bad side, but an Arsenal team firing on all cylinders should be able to beat them even with their current injury problems. If they go out with the right attitude and commitment I expect them to do so, but the question is will they manage to show that attitude and commitment. They faded awfully after Hull equalised on Saturday and even more so when Hull went ahead and could only muster any real fight in the dying minutes. That fight has to be evident from first to last minute tonight and if it is I fully expect Arsenal to win.

Hopefully they can come through the game without more injuries and with three points ahead of their trip to Sunderland on Saturday. They have to start playing well and winning games in the league and a trip to a team who lost 8-0 last weekend must surely give them the chance to do so. I'll preview that game closer to it, but for the moment the Anderlecht game is the crucial one and it's one Arsenal must win. I would normally say I'm not too concerned about how they win, but I think they have to put in a really good performance to kick start the rest of the season and I'm hoping they do so along with taking the three points.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Even if Arsenal can get to the ko out stage of the cl,I doubt the gunners can win the trophy.
    The limitations of the squad have been glaring to all but Wenger.Unless he plugs the gaps in the team,he shd know where are those,believe me this could be the season when Arsenal will fail to qualify for the cl.
    If that happens he could finally go to Monaco.I say let him go.It would be a different environment and he could be fired like Moyes halfway through the season.The name of the game is winning. Whether you win ugly doesn't matter. The problem is the fm wants to win in style.He has failed to do the last ten years and yet shows no inclination of ditching his strategy.
    The next manager could get the gunners playing less possession soccer. Watch how WBA scored against MU.I doubt Wenger can get the gunners to score like that.His passing game slows down the attack.That is why the gunners have failed to win more than the two games.