Momentum is a great thing in football and there is no doubt that Arsenal have it at the moment. We may have a had a bit of luck along the way, with the poor finishing of Cavani giving us the chance to draw at PSG and a soft penalty decision from the ref helping us to beat Southampton, but the fact of the matter is that the Gunners are going strong after a slow start to the new season.
There has been a lot of speculation about how many changes to the Arsenal starting line up Arsene Wenger will make for the second Champions League group match against the Swiss champions Basel tonight, even more so with Francis Coquelin reminding the Gunners boss of how injury problems have plagued the club in recent years.
Apart from having to replace the defensive midfielder though, with Granit Xhaka the obvious choice, I think we will see just one other change from the 11 players that started and did so well against Chelsea in the Premier League at the weekend. Arsenal do have an EPL match on Sunday to consider but after that is the international break and the trip to Burnley is a game we expect to win anyway.
Granit Xhaka has had a good start to his Arsenal career having scored two magnificent goals in just a handful of games and has become a favourite amongst the fans. Calls to give Xhaka a starting position on the team against Chelsea were left unanswered by Arsene Wenger last weekend, however now that Francis Coquelin seems to be ruled out for the time being, Xhaka will finally get the chance to kickstart hopefully a long career with the club.
It is not like Arsene Wenger to go over the top when Arsenal have a good game, just as the Frenchman is usually the voice of calm and reason when the Gunners suffer the setback of a bad performance or result, so it was a bit different to hear the Arsenal boss waxing lyrical about the team after the demolition of Chelsea at the Emirates stadium yesterday.
Perhaps it was down to all the frustration we have had with the Blues in recent years, or ever since Jose Mourinho and the crazy spending of Roman Abramovic changed everything. This certainly was an overdue win but it was the nature of the match that had Wenger buzzing, as reported by Metro.
The Arsenal and Chelsea teams are out for today’s big Premier League clash and there are a few surprised and talking points from both sides. The biggest news for me and from an Arsenal point of view is the continued absence of the Chelsea captain and centre back John Terry.
The veteran defender was possibly due to return today and I reckon it is a massive plus point for Arsenal’s chances of winning that he hasn’t made it, because that leaves Cahill and Luiz and the Brazilian has been making lots of mistakes since coming back from PSG.
Arsene Wenger is well aware of the qualities od Diego Costa, so the Arsenal coaches will have been working with the players, especially the ones on the defensive side of the team, on how to best cope with the Spain international and stop him from scoring when Chelsea come to north London in the Premier League today.
It is not just Costa’s abilities as a striker that is worrying the Arsenal boss, however, but his talent as a wind up merchant. The referee Mike Dean was largely to blame for our loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last season, as he failed to take action when Costa should have seen red for fouling Koscielny but then sent off Gabriel for his reaction.
We heard from Arsene Wenger the sort of news that Arsenal fans have sadly become used to in recent years, with the return of the Welsh international star Aaron Ramsey after his hamstring injury having been put back yet again. He has now been out of action since that first EPL match against Liverpool and is not likely to be ready for next weekend either.
Some better news for the boss, however, was that our big French centre forward Olivier Giroud is close to a comeback having come through a training session earlier in the week without any problems. The striker was due to be tested again during training yesterday but as long as nothing untoward happened he should be fit to face Chelsea today.
I am not saying that the people behind the secnes at the club and the Arsenal board are wrong to be making plans to replace our long serving manager Arsene Wenger. It would be daft if they did not put some thought into it, even if they are expecting the Frenchman to stay after his current contract runs out at the end of the year.
The timing, however, of the revelation by Ivan Gazidis on an Arsenal supporter’s forum reported by the Daily Express could hardly have been worse, as this week and specifically today the 22nd of September, marks the 20th anniversary of the prof starting his career as the manager of our great football club.
Arsenal were reportedly interested in more strikers than you can count if you were to believe every rumour told by the media this summer. From Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain, to Romelu Lukaku and Jamie Vardy, none of Arsenal’s big striking targets ever became a reality.
Whilst Jamie Vardy did openly have the chance to join the Gunners, it was understood that perhaps he was the only striker that Arsenal got into negotiations with (bar Lucas Perez of course.) The rest of the players that were rumoured, including Morata and Lacazette, may have never gotten the opportunity to speak to Arsenal, but one player who did was Mauro Icardi.
Arsenal have been on the receiving end of this sort of thing from the current Spanish La Liga champions before, most notably when the Barca players led an orchestrated and determined campaign to let our then captain Cesc Fabregas know that he was wanted at the Nou Camp without the Catalan club having to make an official approach.
The pressure went on and Fabregas made it clear to Arsene Wenger and Arsenal that he wanted to return to Spain to play for his boyhood club where he had been at the famous La Masia academy as a youth player. Just like he did with Fabregas, Wenger took our current right back Hector Bellerin from Barca and gave him the chances to p[lay that he would not have got had he stayed.