Two weeks, we beat Shaktar a whopping 5-1 at the Emirates, with an excellent display of attacking football and an equally intelligent defensive display – but the return trip today will be a completely different kettle of fish. The 5-1 scoreline was quite emphatic and reality was a little harsh on the visitors, who were quite stubborn up until the goals were scored. They will be looking to get some sort of revenge and it will be a test of our resolve. A point out in Shaktar will be enough in terms of progression for our progression – but a win will virtually put us through to the next round.
After our slight win, but dedicated performance against West Ham, there may be a few changes. There were fitness questions around Denilson after three games in a row and a slightly subdued performance against West Ham – with Jack Wilshere returning from suspension, I’d expect him to take his place. News broke earlier this week from the club that Wilshere has signed a new contract to see him tied down to the club for the next 5 years, and Arsene took time out to talk about the future of Jack and the contribution to the team so far… and with Cesc absent from the squad too, how he can play a more advanced role:
“When Fabregas is not there you have to share a little bit the decisive passing, the building up of the game between Nasri, Wilshere or Rosicky for example, so that is the task we have. We have many creative players who can create good passes and that’s what I count on. Wilshere is not scared to take the ball so he will have a part of it to do. It depends what I do. If I play with two more defensive midfield players behind him he can play that role but if I use Jack deeper and for example Nasri or Rosicky in front of them he remains in the same position. I am very much surprised [by Wilshere's development]. I didn’t expect that to happen so quickly. You have to be open-minded in our job and most of the time when it happens like that you are happy.”
Despite the noise from Arsene regarding Jack playing in more attacking role, I am pretty sure he’ll start against Shaktar alongside Alex Song, but may move higher up the pitch in the latter stages of the game if we need to be a little more defensive. With three wins out of three, we can rotate a little, and I’d expect Sagna and Koscielny to be rested. I’d also think Chamakh will be rested too, letting Bendtner have another run out. I’d expect the following line-up:
Eboue – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy
Wilshere – Song
Walcott – Nasri – Arshavin
With a bench of Szcznesy, Sagna, Koscielny, Denilson, Rosicky, Vela, Chamakh
Update: Denilson, Song, Arshavin & Cesc have all be confirmed out injured, so line up may be:
Eboue – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy
Wilshere – Eastmond
Walcott – Nasri – Rosicky
With a bench of Szcznesy, Sagna, Koscielny, Emmanuel Thomas, Lansbury, Vela, Chamakh
Regardless of Arshavin’s form, I’m convinced he will start, especially in the Champions League, as he has shown the better side of his play in the Champions League compared to the Premiership. One player who is impressing this season is Theo Walcott and it’s amazing to see his turn around… He has scored 6 goals this seasons from hardly any play, and if he keeps his consistency game in and game out then he will really start raising eyebrows…
Here’s a little extract on the reaction to his goals against Newcastle last Wednesday from the boss:
“Theo can be a prolific goalscorer. Once he is a yard in front of the defender no-one can catch him. He is very, very close to playing that striker role. But when you play with only one up front you like as well a guy who is good in the air as sometimes you kick it longer. Still look at the two goals he scored against Newcastle, they are from a typical striker goes who plays on a counter-attack. But most of the time we face teams with a different problem. We face teams that play very deep like West Ham so there is less space in behind. That is why at the moment I use him on the flanks.”
Theo is used in an attacking trio for Arsenal, but more conventionally in a 4-4-2 for England. The further forward he plays, the more effective he will be in terms of goals and assists (hence his better stats for Arsenal than England), but ultimately, he will be a striker – like he played for the England Under 21s and he could end up being a striker for England before Arsenal…!
Arsene took time out to talk about the comparisons between Theo and Thierry…
“It’s difficult to compare the similarities. Is Thierry a replica of Theo? Is Theo a replica of Thierry? No. But they have in common tremendous pace, they are good finishers and both are intelligent. In England, you are very impatient. Thierry Henry came here at the age of 23 and Theo is 21. Give two more years to Theo and imagine what he will be. Don’t forget that when Thierry Henry came here, he was a winger. When I played him as a central striker, he said to me ‘but I can’t score goals’. However I knew Thierry when he was 14 and at 15 I knew he could score goals when he played central. Then I left Monaco and they moved him to the flank but I knew in my head he could do it. It looks to me now that Theo has a calmness in front of goal. Before he rushed his decision but now he is different.”
Having just re-read my blog for today, I’m quite excited now!!
Come on you reds… let’s end the night in the next round of the Champions League!