Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Anderlecht Preview + Schar the solution?

Preview | Pre-match conference | Team news

Champions League action tonight with Anderlecht coming to the Emirates in what should be the most straightforward match in our group fixtures. This isn't a game wherein we have to struggle or dig deep to get 3 points out of. Of course, you can legislate for our team's recent performances as a sign that we're as untrustworthy as they come, but it will still be a huge ask to drop points tonight.

You can be certain that despite their relegation form, Dortmund are getting maximum points out of Galatasaray, and we need to keep pace with them if we want to make amends for our 2-0 defeat at the Westfalenstadion. Our fate in the CL is ultimately in our own hands. If we defeat Anderlecht tonight and Dortmund 2 weeks later we'd be in pole position to finish top of the group regardless of their results, which is obviously preferable to depending on other teams to slip up and make your day.

It goes without saying how important it is to top the group, for we do not want to face any more Bayerns or Barcas to halt our Champions League campaigns. True, despite finishing first in 2012 we had the ill-fate of AC Milan on our way, but that was a problem not of our doing and, lest we forget, a beatable opponent. The fact that we lost 4-3 was down to us, not the draw.

Arsenal in particular badly need a good run in the Champions League. Our hopes always seem to end in March because we tend to mess up in the first leg and leave it too little too late in the second. Our record in entering the knockout stages may be perfect, but we don't really do anything once we're in the room of the crème de la crème.

Bearing in mind that this would be our easiest group fixture, we should be looking into resting our main men. I hope we look to rest at least one of Sanchez, Welbeck or Cazorla, because we won't be as utterly reliant on them in a match like this. Ideally, I would go with a starting XI of Szczesny - Chambers - Mertesacker - Monreal - Gibbs - Arteta - Ramsey - Rosicky - Chamberlain - Podolski - Alexis; but I know the manager too well to know that he'd persist with Welbeck and (probably) Cazorla. The man has no idea of the concept of rotation.

I wouldn't even have many issues with resting Mertesacker for Bellerin and changing the back four to Bellerin - Chambers - Monreal - Gibbs; assuming Bould and Wenger practiced with such a unit these previous days; but we all know that's not going to happen either way.

Tonight may be another time we can give Theo Walcott another good cameo from the bench because despite our recent levels of performance, this game should be more or less over by the 65th minute. Walcott is a great option that could lift the burden off Alexis, and god knows Sanchez needs a breather. If things go well tonight and it's not too rushy-rushy, we could have Walcott starting against Swansea and Alexis gasping for breath on the bench.

It isn't a lot to ask this Arsenal team to get maximum points from this fixture, and it isn't a lot for them to deliver it. So let's do this!

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There had come a time when we would have been pleased with anyone with a body and a pulse in defence. Schar, a centre back from Basel, offers much more. And judging from his recent quotes, he's available:

"Basel are open to negotiations. My dream remains to have an experience abroad. I'd like the Bundesliga, Premier League or top Italian clubs like Inter, Milan and Juventus. I couldn't say no."

He's young, affordable, available, a short-term and long-term answer. With his contract expiring next summer, surely we can take out £10m out of our pockets and get him in January? In all honesty I've never seen him play, but he sounds a good enough option on paper.
A Switzerland Gooner mooted that he's is the best center back in the Swiss league and the first choice in the national team, with good attacking rates, big body presence and a superb header. Sounds like a no-brainer for me.

In other cases I'd scoff and make a Kim Kallstrom-esque joke pertaining to our winter transfer businesses, but something makes me not rule this transfer out categorically. Maybe it's because Wenger openly said that he would be on the lookout for a defender in the AGM. Now, I know that trusting Wenger isn't the most wisest thing one can do, but those quotes were too direct to be passed off as false promises.

But then again, remember this from Gazidis?

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Right, that's an argument for the long-term. For now, let's just focus on Sanchez scoring four tonight. Till tomorrow.


P.S. This is awesome.




-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]