There are certain fixtures in Arsenal’s calendar that fill me with dread. Today’s trip to Turkey is certainly a prime example of that. Had the team headed to Fenerbahce on the back of an impressive performance at the weekend, I’d be feeling rather optimistic now. As it stands, I’m worried – worried for the players and the pressure they are under, and worried that a poor result tonight could both affect our transfer dealings, and send the Internet into a complete meltdown.
There is a lot riding on the game. There’s the monetary rewards that come with Champions League football at stake. There’s the prestige of that competition, and the perceived shame of a Club Arsenal’s size being relegated to the Europa League.
I’ve heard some Arsenal ‘fans’ say they hope we lose tonight, that a poor result will be the final nail in Arsene Wenger’s coffin. That I can’t agree with. Under no circumstances should any Arsenal fan want Arsenal to lose. Even if Scarlet Johansson promised me a night of blistering carnal pursuits on the back of an Arsenal defeat, I’d still be cheering them on (Mind you, I don’t think I’d take to Twitter in rage if they did lose in that scenario).
The team news, mercifully, is pretty good today. Aside from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is said to be out for 6 weeks, all the doubts from the weekend are expected to be fit, and Nacho Monreal has joined up with the squad. Arteta and Vermaelen remain sidelined, and Abou Diaby has been humanely destroyed.
I don’t expect Santi Cazorla to start tonight, as he looks someway from match fitness. Podolski should come in on the flanks, and Tomas Rosicky, our best player on Saturday, might drop into the advanced midfield role behind Giroud. There has been some talk of Fabianski starting tonight ahead of Szczsney, but I can’t see that happening.
My guess would be:
The substitutes bench is likely to include a few youngsters. It’s a pretty damning insight into the state of our squad that we lack depth in reserve for such an important game. I’m a huge fan of both Zelalem and Gnabry, but the time isn’t quite right for either to be options for the first team.
If we come away tonight with a score draw, I’ll be very happy. Fenerbahce are notoriously bad travellers, and I’d fancy us to beat them at the Emirates quite comfortably. What’s important is to head into the second leg without anything to chase. With the pressure already on the players, I fear that might lead to the disastrous.
An old fashioned backs-to-the-wall Arsenal performance is what’s needed. The atmosphere will be hostile, the opposition with harass and press us at every chance. If we play like a team, keep our heads and utilise the pace upfront, we can come away with a result. Loosing by a couple of goals tonight doesn’t bare thinking about, so I’m not going to.
I’ll predict 2-2.
That’s all for today, folks. Below, the comments wait for you thoughts on the team and the potential result. Are you nervous and expecting the worst? Or do you think we’ll come through this? Let me know what you think.
As always; thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.