As we get closer and closer to kickoff on tonight’s decisive game, pundits Charlie Nicholas and Paul Merson have given their opinions on whether Arsenal can make it through to the Round of 16. While Nicholas believes that the club’s injury problems might be too much to overcome, Merson is of the opinion that Mesut Ozil will be the deciding factor tonight.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Nicholas admitted that a full strength Arsenal had the capability to beat anyone, but felt that with the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla missing the team would be lacking the required firepower (via Sky Sports).
“Arsenal can do it, there’s no doubt about that, but I’m not totally convinced that they will because the injury situation is a dramatic one,” Nicholas said
“For too many years now they’ve needed the big performances and they get them but somehow fall short. I mean, how can you beat Bayern Munich and still be in this situation?
“Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming back and Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud scoring goals gives me hope. I see Arsenal scoring their two goals but I have a horrible feeling that they’ll get into a good position and then concede and go out.
“I really hope that I’m wrong and that this is where Petr Cech, who has been brilliant, pays back his transfer fee and more.”
Petr Cech has been a big player for the Gunners this season. Apart from his poor showing on the opening day of the season against West Ham, the Czech international has been a rock for the Arsenal defence, saving us at crucial moments and keeping us within touching distance of the top of the table. In our previous game against Sunderland he made a couple of massive saves with the scores tied, allowing the team to go on to win 3-1. Needless to say, his performance will help decide whether we get the result we need tonight.
Paul Merson meanwhile, believes that Arsenal’s qualification lies in the hands of Mesut Ozil. The German playmaker has been on fire this season, scoring twice and assisting 12 times already. Ozil effortlessly guides the play of the entire team and is capable of feats of magic when he is in the mood. However, Merson is still not convinced that the 27 year old midfielder is playing at full potential yet (via the Standard).
“Ozil has been in fantastic form of late, but when I watch him I still feel he can give more,” he said.
“I know he’s cool under pressure, but he looks as if he’s playing in his back garden at times.
“Perhaps I’m greedy, but I’d like to see more ruthlessness in front of goal.”
Ozil’s importance to the team has skyrocketed even further in the absence of Cazorla and Sanchez, and the manager will be looking to the German to guide the team over the line tonight. Whether the players are able to rally and get the desired result remains to be seen, but let’s hope they turn in a memorable performance at the very least.