So, here we are again. After the emotional moments over the weekend, it is time to reset and prepare for a whole different game. The Champions League is fast paced as it is, and when a team like Borussia Dortmund play it becomes faster still. Despite injury problems, the Germans can still field a strong, well balanced team, and we must also put our best available players on the field to win this fixture.
Let’s get down to it:
Emiliano Martinez looks set to get another outing for Arsenal today. The injury to Szczesny in the game against Manchester United will probably be enough to keep him on the bench for today; and David Ospina continues to struggle with the injury he picked up over the summer.
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Martinez is not a bad keeper, and he performed rather well the last time he was called upon to play, however he is still a very inexperienced keeper. Against Dortmund’s attackers, not only will he have to be at his best, he also needs the defenders to stand up and be counted.
This area of the team more or less picks itself every game due to the absolute lack of options. The probable return of Laurent Koscielny means that he should partner Per Mertesacker in central defence, giving some desperately needed solidity to our back line. The full backs will be Gibbs and Chambers as usual, with Nacho Monreal dropping onto the bench. However, this is speculative; if Wenger chooses not to risk Koscielny we could see Monreal play in the centre of the park one more time.
The defence really need to step up their game a notch, they have been lackluster and out of sorts all season. Mertesacker simply does not have the pace to keep up with speedy forwards, and every time he goes forward we risk conceding a goal because he will be unable to get back in time. Chambers meanwhile will have to be more alert, against Swansea he was destroyed out wide, and Dortmund have enough fast options to do that to him again. He will need support from whoever is playing in front of him. Also, it might be better for both him and Gibbs to go forward more sparingly today, since Dortmund are so much more lethal on the counter than United.
The team will probably line up in the 4-2-3-1 formation today as well, and I expect Arteta and Ramsey to play as the deep midfielders. Arteta is a certain choice for his ability to control the possession. However like Mertesacker he too lacks the pace to deal with a quick counter attack. Ramsey will partner him and act as the transition between defence and attack, getting forward as and when needed. Flamini might also be picked, but I think Wenger will prefer these two instead.
In the advanced roles, there is more room for variation. Sanchez is our best player, and he will probably start in the attacking midfield slot, playing directly behind the striker. Some of his best performances have come from that position, and given that Cazorla has failed to impress of late, he is the obvious choice. Out wide, on the right flank we will probable see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Englishman has been impressive this season and is starting to mature as a player, and with the continued absence of Walcott he should keep his place in the side easily.
Out left is a tough call. I see Wenger starting Cazorla there, simply because it adds more flexibility to the lineup and will allow the players to switch around, however I would really like to see Podolski handed a start instead. Cazorla has simply not been good enough to justify is inclusion in today’s game and there is absolutely no point i keeping a player like Podolski on the bench.
Since Giroud is ineligible, that means that Danny Welbeck will get one more start. The striker has an unbelievable work ethic, but his finishing leaves much to be desired and maybe his replacement by Giroud will be for the best. However, he has one last chance to impress today. There questions over his fitness though, and if he is unable to play, then that opens up a few interesting possibilities.
Yaya Sanogo might be handed a rare start, or Wenger could also choose to play Sanchez as a lone striker. This formation would see Cazorla play as the No. 10 and Podolski start on the left.