So Arsène’s presser delivered an update on the much anticipated Coquelin injury situation yesterday and, perhaps having been burnt too many times with incorrect prognoses before, the manager was reluctant to give an exact timeframe on Le Coq’s return. He said it would certainly be more than a month, and would most likely be more than two months, which means that a three or four month lay-off is still very much on the cards for our midfield destroyer. It’s a hammer blow for us and one in which we’ll need to find a resolution on. Fast.
Arsène suggested Flamini and Arteta as we’d expect, but he once again touted Chambers as a possible alternative, which wouldn’t have surprised many of us who regularly tune in to any sound bites from the manager. Unfortunately we also tune in to every game and that means we’ve seen with our own eyes that Chambers could be a massive gamble. He got a shot against Southampton last season, but it didn’t work, so I suspect Chambers will be option number four if Flamini and Arteta are out. Let’s all be honest here, it’s not within the realms of impossibility for us to be drawing on a player fourth in line to a starting position, especially at Arsenal. So let’s expect to see Chambers by Christmas at least.
For now though, it looks like Flamini gets to prove his worth, because surely Arsène will pick a ball-winner having seen what Coquelin can do? Flamini is nowhere near as energetic or effective as his younger French counterpart, but he will still offer more cover defensively than Ramsey I’d imagine, with Arsène thankfully also delivering good news on the Welshman’s return to action from this evening.
Whether or not Rambo plays from the start tonight I’m not sure. With all due respect to Zagreb, we should have enough quality in our team to overcome them on our own soil. I know we were poor against West Brom, but we were also unfortunate, so if Zagreb are relying on any luck tonight, I’d like to think they used up all of theirs in their home fixture against us on matchday one.
What I saw that day was an Arsenal team caught on the counter, silly in some of the decision making and unfortunate to go a man down to a soft foul that the trigger-happy ref in Zagreb was only too happy to oblige. Tonight, with home support behind them, you’d hope the players don’t make the same mistakes. Hope.
I think Ramsey will get some minutes, but I would guess as a substitute, so I’d expect the same team to start the game this evening to the one that finished, with Campbell and Flamini coming in for Gibbs and Coquelin/Arteta. The back five will most likely be given a shot at redemption, which they need after that woeful weekend’s tripe they served up, as I don’t think Arsène will want to haul Bellerin out of the limelight after a great season of very good matches. Likewise with Per and Kos too. Gabriel probably deserves more game time, but I think Arsène will stick with his first choice back four, with Cech behind them.
Cazorla will partner the aforementioned Flamini, with Özil in front of them, flanked either side by Alexis and Campbell and Giroud up top. What we need to see from the big Frenchman is better link up play and a less anonymous performance than the West Midlands debacle. From Alexis, I just hope we can get enough goals ahead to haul him off and rest him for some minutes ahead of Sunday.
This is probably the wrong thing to say, but I’ve grown weary of the Champions League this season, especially if it’s at the expense of the league. I’m more concerned with Norwich at the weekend than the game tonight. However, I recognise the inportance of momentum and you only get that through winning football matches, which is why this game does still have a significance. I’d love us to get through in this competition by winning tonight and also in Greece, but as long as it hampers our league results in no way, shape or form.
Zagreb are a bang average team. They took their chances at home and by all accounts shouldn’t really get a look in tonight. But this is The Arsenal and we do love giving hope where there should be none, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Croatians get one or two chances, so it’s just a case of us minimise those and taking our own.
Come on Arsenal. Let’s have it.