When the Champions League draw was made recently, I feared the worst for the Gunners. There are no rollover matches, and a good start is imperative.
I’ve been somewhat surprised at Arsène Wenger suggesting a draw would be a good result, even if his previous experiences in Ukraine have all ended in defeat.
There’s a possibility that it could make the players, especially the younger ones, a touch complacent and that sends out the wrong message.
Alternatively, it could have the effect of taking the pressure off the players, and the fact that we’re playing in such an unforgiving location before winter sets in has to be a bonus.
It would be lovely to be able to sit back after four games and watch the Carling Cup side gain some invaluable experience with qualification already confirmed. Sadly, I don’t think it’s going to be that straightforward and it could go down to the wire. Away points will be vital.
All the talk has been of Samir Nasri and whether he will be fit.
Those of us who were at the Members’ Day will recall that he didn’t take part in the open training session and his absence from the France squad last week is the latest in a series of minor injuries that have hampered his arrival in England.
Find me a Gooner who would rather have Alex Hleb than Nasri and he’ll have a blue and white shirt under his coat. Nasri is everything that Helb wasn’t – incisive, dynamic and able to change games and score goals.
And so, despite the importance of a good start tomorrow evening, I'm glad Wenger has left Nasri at home.
There is a long, hard season ahead and Nasri is going to be a key player. If he wasn’t fit enough for Blackburn, his return tomorrow would have been likely to be a rush job aimed at utilising his creativity when he isn’t entirely fit.
I’d much rather start as we did in Blackburn, letting Theo ride the crest of the Walcott wave with Manu Eboue on the other side and not bring Nasri back until he is 100 per cent fit.
When the big big games come along, it will be the likes of Nasri who will make the difference. If he’s stuck on the sidelines like Tomas Rosicky or Abou Diaby have been in recent months, he’s no use to us.
It's interesting to see that Carlos Vela is back in the squad, and if his cameo against Newcastle is anything to go by, he is going to be a great player.
It's probably too early to expect him to start, but having played so well on the left in Spain last year, it would be nice to see him out there to give us another option, should the game situation allow it.
Surprisingly, Mikael Silvestre is also absent again despite reports that he would be fit - so the side all but picks itself. I hope to see him soon though, if only to give some of the first-choicers a rest.
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