Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Arsenal v Ludogorets Preview And Confirmed Arsenal Lineup

It's Champions League action for Arsenal again tonight when Ludogorets come calling. As the group stands it's nicely set up for Arsenal and PSG to qualify for the knockout stages as long as they can win home and away against Ludogorets and Basel respectively. If both of them do the double they will be through and it will be just a matter of who finishes on top of the group.

I'm certainly not dismissing the challenge posed by either Ludogorets or Basel, but teams with the quality of Arsenal and PSG should be overcoming them without too much difficulty. Arsenal had too much for Basel a few weeks ago and should have beaten them by more than two goals and it should be the same case tonight. Arsenal's biggest enemy could well be themselves as they showed against Swansea last Saturday.

In that game they were 2-0 up and looking quite comfortable when they inexcusably went to sleep. Swansea came back into the game before Arsenal restored their two goal lead and then made the very same mistake again. They just about managed to get away with a 3-2 win, but they could easily have ended up sharing the points.

The most worrying aspects for me were the roasting Nacho Monreal took in the second half in particular and the lapses from Granit Xhaka. Despite Monreal being seen as in the best form of his career I really am not too sure that he is as good as he's perceived. As for Xhaka I'm sure he still needs more time to adapt to English football and Saturday will have been a real learning experience for him.

What Arsenal need to do today is keep their concentration from first minute to last and maybe put away a few more of the very good chances which come their way. I would be very surprised if they didn't win by at least two goals, but the players can't go into the game with that attitude. They need to approach it as seriously as they did the game against Basel and do everything in their power to move into a really healthy position in the group.

When it comes to the crunch in the group it could come down to how Arsenal and PSG do against the other two teams and Arsenal have the chance to put down a marker tonight. I have no doubt that the return trip to Bulgaria will be a tougher task, but Arsenal need to hammer home their advantage on their own ground. 

Arsene Wenger has gone with four changes from the team which started against Swansea. David Ospina continues in goal for the Champions League games and who could deny him his place after his heroics in the 1-1 draw in Paris. I haven't been his biggest fan, but he more than proved his worth and his value as a top class reserve keeper in that game.

In defence Kieran Gibbs comes in for Monreal and you can't deny that he deserves a chance. As I said already I'm a little worried about Monreal and it has to be good to see how Gibbs will perform. He has been a perfect professional in his attitude to bring out of the team for so long now and he always gives his all when he gets a chance.

In midfield Francis Coquelin comes in for Xhaka as he makes his return from injury. The boss is very fond of his partnership with Santi Cazorla and I assume Coquelin could do with some game time seeming as Xhaka is now suspended for the next three domestic games. Where that leaves Mohamed Elneny is anybody's guess, but maybe that's one of the benefits of having a strong squad.

The final change is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in for Alex Iwobi and he's a player with something to prove. I thought he looked good in the few minutes he got on Saturday and hopefully he can take this chance a little better than he has done with others in the last while. There's no doubting his talent and it's hard to know where it all goes wrong for him all too often.

It's certainly a strong enough team to do what needs to be done tonight and I think they will do just that. Hopefully they will be a lot more focused than they were on Saturday and take the good chances that come their way. I think they will win by at least two goals and if they can keep up the pressure from first to last minute maybe even more.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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