Now that the dissection, analysis, ranting, review, tactical looks, anti Wenger abuse, Djourou ramblings, and van Persie curses (yes, there have been some of that as well) are almost coming to an end, after the debacle on Saturday, we can finally get back to life, and look forward to our next 90 minutes of football.
Schalke are the visitors from the teutonic land, and high on confidence, after their own exploits in the German Bundesliga, where the disposed off German champions Borussia Dortmund in their own backyard. And coming into the game, Schalke are unbeaten in their last 5 games, winning thrice, and drawing the other two. Arsenal, on the other hand, Arsenal have lost twice, to Norwich and Chelsea.
Yet, there has been lot to suggest that the players are now fully focused on the task ahead, as they look to ensure an early qualification into the knockout stages. Mikel Arteta was among the first to voice his displeasure over having let Chelsea take a massive 10 point lead at the top of the table, over Arsenal, who languish in 9th place.
We’re really down because we expected to win the game. They raised their game, they made it very difficult for us.I think we controlled the game, mostly, for 90 minutes. But you go a goal down, you start getting anxious, the goal doesn’t come, it makes it really hard.For the amount of ball we had in the game, we should have done more and created more goal situations. We need more patience sometimes.It’s not the first time we have conceded the first goal,It’s very difficult.If you go ahead, it gives you a lift, the other team has to take risks, and you can cause mistakes. You can’t get back in the game every time you fall behind. It’s a tough ask and we haven’t done it today.We have time to come back. But we are down because we know how good we are and how good we can be.
Come to think of it, the Norwich game was a stark reminder, that ability means nothing in football. Mentality is a way more important factor. After going a goal down, Arsenal were nowhere near even threatening Norwich. Yes, most of our players were away on international duty, but that shouldn’t really be the excuse. At times, it hurts to watch teams like Chelsea and Manchester United showing amazing mental strength to make amazing comebacks.
Take yesterday for example. Even when Braga went 2-0 up, there wasn’t the slightest doubt in my mind that Manure were going to win, and even if it was past 80 minutes, you can never count that out. But, on the contrary, after Norwich scored, almost every Arsenal fan knew, that this was heading for a defeat or a draw, just by looking at the sluggishness of the performance.
Ok, I am sorry, I just got into ranting again, but I think my views can be best expressed, here, by Poznan in my Pants.
So, back to some real news then. Arsene Wenger has challenged the defence to up their game, and perform to secure results for the team. Surprisingly, after all the praise everyone, including me, was hovering above Steve Bould seems to have gone completely out of the window.
Unfortunately, most of the goals we conceded were totally avoidable, an we have found ourselves in difficult situations, against Manchester City, Chelsea, Montpellier and Norwich, by conceding first. Blaming an individual or a player, wouldnt be fair, considering defending is a team duty. Collectively, the team needs to improve on the smallest of things, set pieces, bulky strikers et al. Far too often, we have see us crumbling apart, and a retrospective look need to be taken.
And there’s no better way to start off by keeping a clean sheet and winning against some strong German opposition. There are some positives as far as team news has to go. First, Laurent Koscielny returns and is available for selection again.
I would like to see the Frenchman be given a chance beside Per Mertesacker, and give Vermaelen a rest. Vermaelen has shown that he is often prone to mistakes, and a rest should do him some good. The fact that he is captain, and hence undroppable is barely the point.
Apart from that, there is very little on the injury front. Diaby and Rosicky will be 2-3 weeks away for the rest of the season, while Gibbs, Chamberlain and Walcott are expected to be fit in time for the QPR clash on Saturday. Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong and Bacary Sagna, as well, who played the entire game against Everton’s U-21’s, are expected to be available for selection.
This does leave us a bit short on options though, for tonights game. Schalke have some injury concerns of their own, with highly rated 19 year old Julian Draxler out. Also out are promising young Greek defender Kyriakos Papadopulous and Per Mertesacker’s former German defensive partner Cristophe Metzelder.
Here is how I see the teams lining up.
Schalke, like any German team cannot be underestimated, and they have some fine players in the squad. Starting with Klass Jan Huntelaar, one of the most prolific strikers in Europe. He is always a menace, and a poacher, and Arsenal will have to keep a close eye on him. Apart from him, there is the fledgling defensive midfield duo of Marco Hoger and Roman Neustadter.
Lewis Holtby, linked to playing for England, but thankfully choosing Germany, will be their biggest threat. All of 22, the number 10 has been consistently linked to Arsenal, and will surely be looking to impress. And remember Jefferson Farfan, of PSV fame, and Ibrahim Afellay, another young Dutchman looking to impress.
It would be fair to say, Schalke will come with a well worked gameplan, to frustrate Arsenal, and break on counters with their pacy players, much like Olympiakos tried to do. Lukas Podolski has already warned of Schalke’s abilities.
It will take more than a good offensive display to take 3 points today, and inch closer to qualification to the knockout round.
Enjoy the game wherever you are!
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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