Arsenal vs Partizan Belgrade preview: Barca or Real can wait + starting lineup

December 8, 2010

Tonight we face Partizan in a must win game to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. It would have been an insignificant game had we done better in the previous two matches. As it stands, even if we win, we can’t be sure of topping the group as it depends on Shakhtar’s result against Braga. However, we have to do our part in the best way possible and what is to come will be dealt with when the time comes.

This is a must win game but we do have an important fixture coming after this. Will Wenger rotate or just make a couple of changes? I have a feeling that it will be a strong team with only one or two changes from Fulham. We have to go match by match and for tonight the priority is to qualify. So the team that I would like to see is:

Starting XI: Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Rosicky, Wilshere, Nasri, Van Persie, Arshavin.

As Djourou has been ruled out and Koscielny declared fit, so Squillaci and Koscielny are sure starters. Fabianski will also start. As we need to win this so I would start with Sagna on the right and give Gibbs a chance on the left. Clichy to have a rest. In the middle we should start with Song and Wilshere, with Song sitting deep. Or if Wilshere is to be given a rest, Denilson should be given a go. Rosicky to start in the playmaker role.

Up front it gets trickier. Wenger hinted at Van Persie’s start so I would go with him in the lone striker role. It would although be vital that he is brought into the game more as he can open up the Partizan defence.  Nasri and Arshavin to flank him on either side.

We will need to take control of the game from start and then change a few players to give them a much needed rest. So it would be of utmost importance that we find early goals.

The defending today would have to be perfect. With defending, I don’t mean only the defenders but our defending as a team. We have been conceding plenty of goals that are not down to the opposition getting the better of us but due to us making some basic mistakes as a team and in some cases individually. We need to certainly put things right in defending as we are going to be facing Man Utd and Chelsea shortly.

I don’t have doubts that we will win tonight. The scores don’t matter tonight though. A win would suffice but a clean sheet will help the confidence.

Let’s just go out there and get a win. Man Utd or Barca or Real can wait…

Wenger: We first have to qualify, Van Persie might start, Djourou is out and Koscielny returns

December 8, 2010

Speaking ahead of the all important, must win, game against Partizan Belgarde, Wenger wasn’t concerned about the oppoenent in the next phase. He said that we should not look ahead at which team we encounter in the next round. The focus first should be to qualify and see what happens next. Be it Barcelona, Bayern or even Real, to go ahead, we have to beat them. Be it in the next round or further ahead. Wenger said it’s even not a guarantee we will get these teams as there are other possibilities. What happens will happen. We simply have to proceed with it.

“If you want to win it, you have to play against these big teams. What is important is not to focus on the teams we might play, we first have to be very pragmatic and qualify first. We will see then who we get. First of all, it is not a guarantee that we play Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the next round – there are some other teams we can play and what happens, happens.”

Wenger further said that he expected to win every game before this, but as it is you have to be prepared for every situation and still the most important thing will be to qualify.

“I expected to win all the games before but you have to be ready for every possibility in our job and the most important thing is to qualify.”

At the moment it’s not in our hands who we meet in the next round. Our job, as Wenger has said, is to go out tomorrow and qualify. Who knows, If results go our way we might even top the group.

In team news it has been revealed that there is a possibility that Van Persie will start the match. Speaking about him, Wenger said if you would have asked him two weeks back he would have said he was ready to start. At the moment he is getting better by every match. As he has been out for a long time he needs more games to get back to match fitness. There is a chance that he will start tomorrow as Wenger hasn’t yet decided the starting lineup.

“He is getting better and better and ready to start. He was ready to start two weeks ago if you ask him. He is a player who has been out for a long time and wants games. I haven’t decided the starting line-up but it is a possibility [that Van Persie will be in it].”

Finally, for  a change we have good news on the injury front. Koscielny, who till yesterday was out for three weeks, has been remarkably declared fit. He is in the squad and will start tomorrow. 

As for Djourou, he will not be available as he has a minor thigh injury. He was very dominant against Fulham, but Wenger says we have to be cautious as risks cannot be taken with him.  

As for the rest of the squad it will be available as it was against Fulham with Emmanuel Eboue to be included.

“Koscielny has been declared fit to play and will play tomorrow. We lose Djourou, because we are a bit cautious with him. He could have played with a risk, but we did not want to take a risk. Emmanuel Eboue comes back into the squad, the rest will be the same against Fulham.”