Happy match day fellow gooners. It’s a match day with a buffer. I like those kind of match days. I like buffers.
The buffer I of course refer to is one which is psychological, because unlike that lot from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road, we have qualified from our group and face only the prospect of whether we top or not to concern ourselves with. It could all be so much worse, when you think of the fact that their fans are licking their wounds this morning, couldn’t it?
So the penultimate group game for us is a home match up against PSG and if we win tonight then we top the group and qualify first after the goal difference. After years (all but one) or finishing second, it might be nice to mix it up a bit and grab ourselves a theoretically easy draw in the next round. Heh, yeah, theoretical…
The team news from their side first, which is both bizarre and welcoming, with the fact that Serge Aurier has been denied entry in to the UK from the Home Office. good to see that the Government is working in our favour for a change, eh?
Of course I’m jesting, but he was one of their best players when we lined up against them in Paris for the reverse of this fixture, so him being missing will be a bit of a blow for them. So too is Angel Di Maria potentially not being available, but regardless of whether he plays, they will still have a lot of quality to cause us problems tonight. In the last game I thought Matuidi was impressive, as was Rabiot and whilst Cavani couldn’t hit his hat in the last game, the fact he scored on 45 seconds shows that he does occasionally know where the net is.
I’m expecting PSG to play in a similar way to the side that we played in September. I think their strengths are in the middle of the park in retaining possession and I think they’ll try to dominate in that area to get a foothold in the game. That’s why it’ll be interesting to see what selection decision Arsène goes for in central midfield. My preferred choice would be Coquelin and Xhaka. Coquelin was excellent at breaking up play at United, but with Elneny alongside him we lacked that creativity and precision in our forward passing movement. Xhaka would bring that more than Elneny – who I thought was poor at Old Trafford – and so I hope that’s what Arsène opts for.
I’ve seen some suggest that we should be looking at Ramsey and Xhaka through the middle and whilst I understand the theory – a physical presence and deep lying passer of the ball alongside a box-to-box energetic midfielder – it’s a formula that hasn’t been tested and against such a decent team like PSG are, I think Wenger will want a partnership that understands each other best.
I just hope he doesn’t end up forcing Ramsey in to a position that doesn’t work. He was woeful against United and personally I’d be leaving him out for one of Iwobi or The Ox. The Ox seems to excite and infuriate in equal measure this season, but when you look at the numbers, he’s delivering end product for the team, so perhaps this is something Arsène will think of.
Defensively we’ll have Ospina back, but I don’t expect much change to the back four from Saturday. Monreal was poor but Ramsey wasn’t exactly perfect protection and Arsène will take that into consideration I think. Personally I’d love Gibbs to be given a run, but I just can’t see it happening at the moment, so he’ll have to wait for a Monreal injury to get his opportunity.
At the other end of the pitch the manager has another dilemma. To Giroud, or not to Giroud? That is his question. The guy has been brilliant from the bench and proved his worth at the weekend too, so I wonder whether Arsène will have a go with him tonight. If he does he can move Alexis right and if he drops deeper to collect the ball we’ll still have a target man that the ball sticks too, so I’d like to see that front three again with Walcott on the right.
How we set up initially will be important, because I read somewhere (apologies, can’t find the link now) that all of our goals conceded in this competition so far have been in the first 15 minutes of a game. So teams are clearly catching us cold. Which means we need to make sure that PSG don’t come out of the blocks too quickly. The good thing is that we’re at home, which usually means teams playing more conservative so they can build in to the game, so perhaps there’s an opportunity for us to catch PSG on the back foot early on?
This is a game that isn’t a ‘must win’, but will mean something if we do. It’ll be a victory over a big team, which will boost confidence and belief, so let’s hope we can do the business tonight and make the game away at Basel even more of a dead rubber.
Catch ya later.