24th November 2015: Do or die time as we face Dinamo

Welcome back. Tonight we’ll find out if we have any chance of progressing to the knockout stages of the Champions League this season as we entertain Dinamo Zagreb at Emirates stadium.

Of course, a win for us wouldn’t necessarily be enough to keep our hopes alive heading into the final fixture, we also need Bayern Munich to beat Olympiacos at the Allianz Arena this evening.

We go into the game having failed to win both our previous two games but Arsene Wenger doesn’t sound too concerned, saying:

In the last two games we have dropped points. We know as well that before that we won five games on the trot and you can go through a spell like that – it is how you respond to that and that is what makes your season. That is why it is a good test for us. It is true that we need a positive result from Bayern, but that only has an impact if we win, so let’s focus on what we can do. I believe that when everybody is back we have a squad to compete in both [the Premier League and Champions League]. If we go through now in the Champions League we can be very dangerous for everybody.

In terms of how we might line-up tonight, my guess would be that Mathieu Flamini will come in to replace Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey will return to the right of midfield with Alexis Sanchez being restored to the left and Kieran Gibbs making do with a place on the bench.

I suppose the alternative would be to play Ramsey alongside Santi Cazorla, but that would mean either Gibbs or Joel Campbell playing on one of the flanks and I’m not sure we can risk that in such a crucial game.

Similarly, I don’t think tonight’s the time to give Calum Chambers a go in the defensive midfield role, despite Arsene talking up the former Southampton man’s talents and potential in the position. He said:

Calum Chambers has been educated as a central midfielder. He has a big stature, good technique, good vision as well. He has played in defensive positions so I think he can develop in the future in a position like defensive midfield. It is very important to balance our team, so the defensive role and the efficiency in this position is very important, because we are a team who like to go forward. All teams needs a strong, reliable player in every defensive aspect.

I have to say I like Chambers as a defender but I’m not sure I share the boss’s optimism when it comes to Calum playing in midfield. Time will tell but my view is that he isn’t nimble enough to play in that position. I think he’s good on the ball and in the air, is fairly quick, has decent passing, can tackle  obviously, and offer a physical presence, but is he quick-witted enough to play alongside Cazorla and Ozil through the middle and make it work? Not for me.

In games when we’re resigned to having far less possession than our opponents, like against Bayern or Barcelona say, I think Calum could be useful in midfield. But those games are few and far between and for the majority of our fixtures, when we’ll be the ones bossing the play, I don’t think Chambers in midfield would work.

It goes without saying that I’d love to be proved wrong, and usually I’m a big fan of trying players in new positions, but only when I think the player has attributes suited to a role.

Anyway, kick-off is fast approaching and I need to get my pre-match meal in. I can never eat while watching Arsenal. Must be the nerves.

Back tomorrow.


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