Wenger hopes this could finally be Arsenal’s year in Europe
Match Preview: PSG vs Arsenal – Champions League – 13.09.16
A frenetic few days comes to a head with Arsenal playing PSG in their first Champions League game of the season. This is Arsenal’s 19th consecutive season in the Champions League and we start it with the toughest away game in the group. Regardless of the result in this game there will be plenty of time left to ensure we don’t end up facing Barcelona or Bayern in the knockout rounds.
However, Arsenal always seems to find a way to make things difficult for themselves so it’s imperative we get off to a good start. A win tonight would give the team some much needed confidence. They’ve looked out of sorts in most games this season and struggled to create much against Southampton despite starting both Özil and Cazorla.
That lack of service was felt particularly keenly by Lucas Pérez who had a rather tame Arsenal debut. That is not a criticism in the slightest, despite a lack of service (something he’s used to from his time at Deportivo) and not being able to impose himself on the game he showed glimpses of why we bought him and topped it off with an assist. His movement was direct but he also showed an ability to link up with deft passes around the box — something we miss when Giroud isn’t playing. History has proven Giroud benefits from competition and plays to his potential when his position is under threat.
Tonight will mark Giroud’s first start of the season and I expect he’ll be chomping at the bit to prove he’s still number one. It’s been suggested before that Giroud was only ever supposed to be a capable back up but lack of competition and/or his own good form has kept him at the top of the tree. I’m a huge Giroud fan and think him genuinely world-class at what he does. If Lucas can keep him on his toes as well as deliver the qualities promised with his signing then we’ll have a battle on our hands that will only benefit the club.
Squad depth is also allowing Arsenal to be a little more cautious with players which is a huge difference from recent seasons and could be vital in Arsenal’s assault on this season’s competitions. Aaron Ramsey has been left behind for this match as a precaution, something almost unheard of in the last half decade, and Granit Xhaka was left on the bench on Saturday with this match in mind.
I expect that we will try to keep some creativity on the bench so feel Santi will make way for Elneny to partner Xhaka. Koscielny has recovered from his swollen eye so will start tonight which will be hugely beneficial to Mustafi who is just settling in. I fancy Giroud to score here but I’m not sure if we’ll get a comfortable result.
The manager thinks he has the right squad balance to go far in the competition but will all depend on where we finish in the group. If Arsenal can get the balance right they could just edge this match and put themselves in pole position to win the group. With the squad we have finding that balance shouldn’t prove too difficult but this is Arsenal and we have a habit of making things unnecessarily difficult.
Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Elneny; Özil; Walcott, Alexis, Giroud
I expect to see substitute appearances from Iwobi, Pérez and Cazorla.
Arsenal and PSG have played in friendly matches in recent years but this will be their first competitive duel in over 22 years.
- PSG 1-1 Arsenal 29.03.1994
- Arsenal 1-0 PSG 12.04.1994
PSG swept to the Ligue 1 title last season but with new manager Unai Emery imposing his own style and sans Zlatan they are a team yet to find their feet. However, that is not to say they are devoid of talent or were a one man team, it is more in recognition of his talismanic presence. PSG still boast rumoured long-term Arsenal target Edison Cavani as well as Motta and Verratti in midfield who move the ball sharply. This is a tough match to start with and Arsenal will be hoping to avoid finish second in the group again by getting a good result here.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in 9 away matches
- Paris Saint-Germain last met Arsenal in the 1993/94 Cup Winners Cup semi-finals, when the Gunners won 2-1 on aggregate
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their 12 away games against French clubs in European competition, including winning their last seven
Stats courtesy of Opta
1-1. Giroud with the goal.
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