Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Arsenal v Anderlecht Preview

On the back of three consecutive victories where the performances have improved with each game Arsenal play Anderlecht tonight. The first of those three games was the away game with Anderlecht and I can rarely remember seeing Arsenal play so poorly, but they came back from 1-0 down to win with two goals at the death against the run of play. They weren't much better in winning away to Sunderland a few days better and had to thank the Sunderland defence for two gifts to take the points.

Last Saturday they beat the Premier League's bottom club 3-0, but it could and probably should have been more. They had more goal attempts in that game than in any game since April 2007 and that was the most pleasing aspect for me. I know Burnley are at the foot of the table but they don't lie down for any team.

While still being far from their best Arsenal have built some momentum and they have the chance to carry that on tonight. The victories might not have been against the best teams, but they can only beat what's in front if them and they are doing that right now. As Arsenal fans we should be happy enough with that and it has to be remembered the calibre of players who have been unavailable or unused in those games.

Players like Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott are first choices in the team and have been mostly unavailable for those games. Take the backbone out of any team and see how they perform week after week and it's no surprise to see Arsenal have struggled at times. Their saving grace has been Alexis Sanchez and he has to be the best player in the league on current form.

It has also been notable how Arsene Wenger has switched to a dual midfield defensive axis of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini in the last two games and Arsenal kept clean sheets in both of them. I wouldn't quite say it's a 4-4-2 but it's not too far off it even if those two players are far from the Vieira/Petite axis we all adored. It has given more protection to the back four even if it has meant there has been a little less going forward.

I'm hoping Danny Welbeck can grab a goal or two tonight because I'm a little worried about how he is fitting into the Arsenal style. I'd like to see him in the penalty area a lot more often, but I think he is best suited to playing against a high line and there are few teams who play like that against Arsenal. Usually opponents drop off and defend in depth and I think he has struggled a little as part of an Arsenal team trying to prise defences open. 

I think Arsenal will win by a couple of goals at least tonight and the chances are Dortmund will do the same which will seal a last 16 spot for both teams. It will be tough to overtake Dortmund after losing 2-0 away to them and I think Arsenal will probably finish second in the group. That will mean a tougher draw in the last 16 but it's an awful lot better than not getting there at all.

The squad should be the same as the one from Saturday and I wouldn't be surprised to see the same starting 11. As long as Alexis is in the team I'll be happy as I just love to see him play for Arsenal, it was so good of Barcelona to sell him to us considering how many duds we have sent in the other direction over the last few years.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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