By Bulldog Drummond
OK, enough of those Ludo jokes. Let’s move on to the question… does Mr Wenger play the regular first team including Granit who isn’t yet debarred, or does he think this is fairly straightforward and give players a rest? Given that we haven’t been unbeaten in the opening three Champs League games for several years I suspect Mr W will give it everything.
And given Granit will now be out for three I think he must play tonight.
So I’ll go for the full first team, not least because Theo needs to keep playing and keep his form running. Last season he played 15 PL games and scored five. This season he has played eight thus far and scored five.
Speaking of Theo Mr Wenger said, “I was not ready to let him go. I always wanted to keep him. I’ve felt that since he’s played with more freedom, maybe he lets his feelings come out a bit more and is less calculating: ‘Can I do that or can I not do that?’
“I think he has a less restricted attitude and that shows you that he is a completely different player.”
In defensive midfield playing Granit one more time means Coquelin starts on the beach, which again is probably no bad thing to give his injury every chance to recover fully.
Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have both been in training but there is no need to rush either of them back given the depth of squad we now have and given that Elneny and Lucas Pérez are both champing at the bit hoping for a chance. Giroud was banned in the second round of games having been sent off ludicrously in the first, so could play on that basis.
David Ospina will be in goal of course, and how interesting that all those jibes against him are now a thing of the past. When he has played for us this season he has been in fine form.
The injury league table from physioroom still has us with five injuries but with Ramsey and Giroud back in training that really ought now to read three (Akpom, Mert and Welbeck). Jenkinson is of course back and played for the under 23s last friday.
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Trouble is having just three injuries would put us in equal 14th place in the injury league table and the media can’t be doing with that. They might let us slip to 8th, but no lower. After all, where would all their “injury crisis” headlines be then?
According to Arsenal the game is now sold out, with tickets being exchanged on the aptly named Ticket Exchange. But given the spaces observed in the stadium recently I suspect not everyone will show up.
So to the teams and the score…
Kieran Gibbs has been coming on a lot as a sub and looking good, and Nacho Monreal is now an old man (well he’s 30) so giving Nacho a rest might not be a bad idea. But the other sub anxious for time on the pitch, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, might have to play as a sub again, and do his stuff in the league cup next week.
Ludo have three players who work hard in their counter attacking approach: Jonathan Cafu, Wanderson and Marcelinho. Cafu has scored five goals in his last six matches and the team has scored 16 goals in the last six games so they are no slouches in front of goal. On the other hand Arsenal have scored 17 in their last six games. So since I have written that, it looks like a dead cert 0-0 draw.
There is also the interesting point that although Ludogorets have lost just one of their last 12 games they have only kept one clean sheet in their last ten games, conceding 13 goals in that time.
But the form guide is usually a better bet than me:
- Arsenal: WWWWWW
- Ludogorets: WWLWWW
and that makes it all look rather fun. Indeed overall Ludogorets have lost twice in their last 17 games, with one of those being PSG and despite my suggestion above the bookies have Arsenal at 1/7 to win. Both teams to score is 5/4.
Of course we all know that for six seasons in a row we have gone out in the round of 16, and the first step to avoiding that is to come top of the group stages. So a strong win is vital, especially as so far we have been avoiding the hiccups of last season’s campaign in which everything had to be sorted out by Giroud in the last match.
Thinking of the players there are two links:
Claidiu Keșerü was a team-mate of Laurent Koscielny and Giroud at Tours FC in 2008/09, while Igor Plastun and Lucas Pérez were team-mates at Ukrainian side FC Karpaty Lviv during 2012/13. (Thanks to Uefa for that info).
So for the Arsenal I am going with…
Bellerín, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs;
Walcott, Özil, Iwobi;
You can see that the opposition don’t have a chance with a goalkeeper as wide as that.
And on the beach….
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elneny, Lucas, Cech, Gabriel, Coquelin, Monreal
So there we have it. In a short while I shall be starting the long trek south. Next up I’m hoping it will be Walter with an instantaneous match report. In fact we are working on a scheme to have the match report published before the game starts. We have the technology (I think it involves faster-than-light travel) but there’s some sort of hold up with our licence from the Ministry of Transport.
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