Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Arsenal Champions League And FA Cup Latest

After a weekend to forget there isn't much breathing space for Arsenal as they travel to Galatasaray in their final Champions League group game. With a place in the last 16 already guaranteed there isn't too much to play for and the Arsenal team will show a lot of changes as a result. They have an outside chance of winning their group if Dortmund slip up at home to Anderlecht and Arsenal win, but it's a pretty unlikely scenario. 

Arsene Wenger took the unusual step of naming his team the day before the game and he has given a chance to some of his fringe players. With so many changes in the team it won't be easy for Arsenal to get a result, but at least some of the more important players will get a rest before the upcoming busy schedule. Arsenal haven't done too well in the past when they have fielded a weakened team in Champions League games and Galatasaray will see this as a chance to claim a big scalp. 

Both Mathieu Debuchey and Wojciech Szczesny make their returns from injury and the rest of the defence will be made up of Per Mertesacker, Calum Chambers and Hector Bellerin. The combination of Mertesacker and Chambers in central defence was very poor against Stoke on Saturday, but needs must and there's nobody else to play there. Yet again the folly of not addressing the defensive shortages in the summer is proving costly for the team and there can't be a single fan who thought it wouldn't. 

Both Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini will continue in midfield with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in front of them. After doing such a good job to protect the back four in recent games Flamini and Ramsey were found badly wanting in their defensive duties against Stoke. The whole team seemed to forget to do everything they had done right in the previous three games from the kick off on Saturday and questions have to be asked about their motivation and preparation for the game. They may have tried to turn things around in the second half, but that first half performance was one of the worst I have ever seen from Arsenal.

The attacking trio is the most interesting of all with forgotten man Joel Campbell playing with the injury prone Yaya Sanogo and the mistrusted by the manager Lukas Podolski. All three will hopefully be anxious to make an impression on a rare occasion they get to play and they're all well capable of it too. Sanogo scored when he started at home to Dortmund in the last group game, but Campbell and Podolski have had even less opportunities to show what they can do.

While I think the team might have a fair deal in attack the defence looks very ropey at best and I am worried about how they will hold up. The game might not be of much significance but the team cannot afford another defeat on the back of Saturday's loss. It seems each time the team appears to be turning the corner they come up with another horror show to go right back to square one.

On the bright side at least Alexis Sanchez will get a break from almost single handedly carrying the team. It's impossible to overestimate how important his contribution has been this season and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for him at times to see the lack of contribution of others. He has been so much better than everyone else so far that I worry he will want to move on this summer to a team where his efforts might lead to more success.

In other news the draw for the FA Cup third round was made yesterday and Arsenal got a home game against Hull. The cup seems to pull out these strange coincidences so often and the game in early January will be a repeat of last May's final. Of course Arsenal won that game after going 2-0 down early on and will want to do all they can to defend the only trophy they have won in the last nine seasons.

Realistically the FA Cup is Arsenal's only hope of silverware this season and a home draw in the third round is a good start. They won the cup without ever leaving London last season and will start their defence in the city again. No other team have won the FA Cup more times than Arsenal and one more victory would see them out on their own on 12 victories.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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