So we play our second game in a relentless run of seven in just 21 days when we entertain Bayern Munich tomorrow evening, and despite suggesting on Saturday that he may rest Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, Arsene Wenger has revealed both players will indeed be starting in what is realistically, a must-win match if we want to progress from our Champions League group.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference alongside Aaron Ramsey earlier today, the boss discussed team news, saying:
We have Gabriel back available, he is the only player back available. Everybody has recovered from our game on Saturday so it is nearly the same squad. (David) Ospina is out injured. He came back from Colombia with a shoulder problem and he is out. No (Ozil and Sanchez won’t be rested). You would be surprised if I told you that I would rest them tomorrow, so I can tell you certainly not. Normally they should play tomorrow.
That clears that up then. I did think it was a little strange Arsene would even consider leaving arguably our two best attacking players out of such a huge game, mainly because his name isn’t Brendan Rodgers and he’s not one to throw the towel in.
So I’m assuming what he said over the weekend about giving Ozil and Sanchez a breather was more ‘at some point’ than ‘right away’. We have Sheffield Wednesday coming up next midweek in the Capital One Cup and that would obviously be the time to do it.
Arsene was also asked if he thought Bayern were the ‘best team in the world’ and didn’t disagree, although he sort of smudged his answer, saying all the teams in the Champions League were the best in the world – which clearly isn’t the case. I mean, Chelsea are in the competition and they’re battling relegation domestically.
He was then asked how his team could overcome the Bavarians and pointed out that no side is without weakness, saying:
[But] there is no team without weaknesses. If you ask me to come out with them then I would not especially do that but there is no team without weaknesses. What we want is to win the game. We want to defend well, attack well and score the first goal – that is massively important in the big games. You can never promise you will score three goals in 20 minutes [like against Manchester United] because that would be absolutely crazy. What we can do is start in a strong way and that is what we will try to do. We know we play against a top side. We prepared well against Zagreb, we prepared well against Olympiacos but [that was] between two Premier League games where we had to give a lot. We won 5-2 at Leicester, three days later we played against Olympiacos. On top of that things went against us. But on Tuesday everyone will be highly focused.
Speaking of how we might overcome Pep Guardiola’s pass masters, Arsene mentioned after the win at Watford on Saturday that he ‘wants to put pace into this game’. The last time the two sides met at Emirates stadium, despite losing 2-0, we actually came flying out of the blocks, bullied Bayern in the opening exchanges and should have gone 1-0 up, only to see Ozil have a penalty saved and then Wojciech Szczesny sent off after a blatant dive by Grandpa Robben.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started that match and I can’t remember how he played in all honesty, but I do remember Kieran Gibbs performing like a man possessed down our left flank, before being forced off through injury after half an hour’s play. The left-back was crucial in our fast start so when Arsene talks pace, I wonder if he has Gibbs in mind to come in for Nacho Monreal.
Of course the Ox himself is a pacey option but I’m struggling to see who he’d leave out to accommodate him. He’s quicker than Ramsey but he’s been out of form and if he were to play, I’d actually prefer him to start more centrally and try to reproduce his man-of-the-match display from that position against AC Milan a few years back.
Of course Gabriel is quicker than Per Mertesacker (only kidding, but who isn’t) and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Brazilian start alongside Laurent Koscielny at the back. All that said though, my inclination would still strongly be to start the same team from Saturday, but Arsene’s got previous in pulling a few selection surprises for big European games (Yaya Sanogo) so I’m intrigued as to what line-up he’ll go with.
Back tomorrow with more pre-game.