If ever there was a metaphorical neon ‘warning’ light that should have been flashing at London Colney and every Arsenal players house last night, it was demonstrated in the Champions League, but not where we thought.
I tuned in to watch Liverpool hang on in the first half and then had some dinner and didn’t bother going back to watch the second after Liverpool equalised. But despite everyone telling us City could overturn a three goal first leg defeat, it was Roma that sounded the ‘careful, Arsenal’ alarm, as they overturned their 4-1 first leg away defeat to beat Barca 3-0 in Italy and pretty much stun the footballing world.
Hmm…4-1 first leg home victory…that sounds familiar…
What it puts into stark contrast is that the mindset of the Arsenal players tomorrow evening needs to be absolutely spot on – something we haven’t exactly see heaps of this season – because in European competition the pendulum swings very quickly.
For example in the City game they scored early, then hit the post in the dying embers of the first half, which completely changed the complexion of the tie. Liverpool sit back and City can probe knowing they don’t have to go gung-ho. They didn’t get that yesterday evening and that gave Liverpool belief and strength going in to the second half.
The same is said for Arsenal in 1989. George Graham was very clear with his team to keep it to 0-0 by halftime and watch how Liverpool will start to wobble as soon as one goal was scored and time was running low. That is exactly what happened.
Timing is everything in Football and mindset is too so I hope that when Arsène talks to his players today and tomorrow he gets them well drilled for what will be a CSKA Moscow team who will want to hit us hard and fast. More on that tomorrow by way of a match preview.
In other quite surprising news, old Mo Elneny appears to have had his suspension quashed, which is a bit of a turn up for the books. It’s a surprise because the FA usually like to look after their own and unless a player is seen to have booted someone in the face or dropped a grand piano on another professional without the ref seeming, they tend to dismiss any appeals. So to have the Egyptian rightly cleared of his slight shove against a Southampton player is good news. It appears there is some sense at FA HQ after all.
What it also means is that our midfield options for tomorrow and Sunday are bolstered. With Elneny back you would definitely say he’ll play on Sunday and will probably be on the bench tomorrow evening as cover. Without him in the league it would leave Arsène with a choice over blooding more youth or playing Wilshere in a deeper role probably alongside Xhaka. That hasn’t really worked so far and Wilshere’s form is such that it probably wouldn’t do anyone any good, so I’m pleased that we at least have the option available, even if he’s a limited option in our team.
Given that one potential suspension of a player in the league has us wondering who plays in the midfield for domestic games does make you wonder about the paucity of our options though. When the summer eventually rolls around it feels to me like the surgery will need to be done in that middle of the park because offloading Coquelin in January now feels like we probably left ourselves one body short. I get that it might be to make way for Maitland-Niles or Willock but that surely has to be as understudy and if Wilshere is off in the summer too, then it does feel like there should be room for one ‘external solution’ at least.
But that’s all conjecture for the summer that we don’t need to concern ourselves with just yet. The focus right now is on crossing everything and hoping those Arsenal players took enough notice of the Roma-Barca game yesterday, but not so much that they’re now sh*tting themselves, because they have shown they have the ability to score against the Russians and they will know they will get chances. It will be about taking them tomorrow evening.
That’s yer lot from me. Catch you all tomorrow.