Arsene Wenger had two big calls to make today in his selection of the Arsenal team to face Norwich City away. One of them has been forced on him by the unfortunate injury to our French defensive midfield star Francis Coquelin and the other is the result of the good news that Aaron Ramsey is back again after his own injury lay-off.
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If things had really gone against Arsenal this weekend we could have found ourselves slipping out of the Champions League places and unable to catch Manchester United before we had even kicked a ball against Norwich City today. And although that would not have been a comfortable situation for the Gunners, I think we would have responded well.
It appears to me that Arsenal produce our best football when we are under pressure and have our backs to the wall. I cannot be unhappy that Manchester United and Tottenham could only manage a point each in their respective games against Leicester City and Chelsea but I am a little concerned that the Arsenal players will feel that the pressure is off.
I am sure that the Arsenal and Wales international midfield star Aaron Ramsey will get on to the Carrow Road pitch at some point today during the Premier League match between Norwich City and the Gunners but, just like in our midweek Champions League clash with Dinamo Zagreb, I think it will be from the subs bench.
Arsene Wenger has already spoken this week about his plans for Ramsey and admitted that the Welshman is not really an option to fill the boots of Francis Coquelin as the holding midfielder for Arsenal. The boss pretty much said that he would continue to use Ramsey mainly on the right flank and if he does start against Norwich then it is almost certain to be in that position.
It was one of the injury problems that Arsenal fans had most feared this season, along with other key players like Alexis Sanchez. But with Arsene Wenger having failed (or chosen not) to sign what we think of as a proper defensive midfielder for years, the role of Francis Coquelin in the Arsenal team was seen as perhaps the hardest to fill.
Now we have three months to get by without the French midfield warrior and there has been a lot of talk about who best to use to fill his boots as well whether the boss will need to sign a new DM in the January transfer window. For now at least Wenger must make do with with the options already in our squad.
Arsenal have a number of reasons for needing to win the Champions League game against Dinamo Zagreb this evening, with a little bit of revenge for the defeat in Croatia probably more important to the Arsenal fans that to our manager.
But Arsene Wenger knows that the Gunners need to win to have any hope of staying in the Champions League past the group stage or even of having Europa League games on Thursdays and he has said that he would take Europe´s second club competition very seriously if we were to drop into it, so I expect a strong Arsenal line up to take to the Emirates pitch tonight.
Whether the game tonight ends up helping Arsenal to salvage our Champions League campaign this season, which has been left teetering on the brink of disaster after the Gunners lost three of the first four games in our group, remains to be seen.
All Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal team can do is to win the game tonight, hope that Bayern Munich give the Greek side Olympiacos a good kicking and then hope to do the same when we travel to Athens for the final game.
The pressure is on Arsenal to win this game and with the home side West Brom having struggled so far in the Premier League this season, you would expect the Gunners to come back to north London with all the points but with Manchester United having scored an early goal away to Watford, there is no room for error.
Arsene Wenger had hinted before the international break that he would be giving the Chile international forward Alexis Sanchez an enforced spell on the sidelines but after it was revealed this week that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be slightly later to return than was first thought, the boss has little option but to start with Alexis.
For any Arsenal fans that might be cursing our luck and worrying about the lengthy injury list that Arsene Wenger is faced with, I have a few crumbs of comfort for you.
For one thing, Arsenal have more than enough quality to cope with the current injury problems, especially against a West Brom team that is struggling to reproduce their form of last season and were easily beaten by a not very good Man United team in their last outing.
Arsenal are preparing to face Tottenham on Sunday and Olivier Giroud has no choice but to start every game for the Gunners in the absence of Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck, but how does our French striker compare to Tottenham’s young hitman Harry Kane!
NO CONTEST! COYG!
Infographic courtesy of Football Fanager
Infographic: North London Derby [Infographic] by the team at Free Super Tips