Schalke Preview: Make or Break Time
The arrivals of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla, coupled with the departures of Alex Song and Robin van Persie didn’t seem like a classic case of three steps forward, two steps back at the start of the season.
Mikel Arteta’s emergence as Arsenal’s primary holding midfielder made Song a distant memory. Just like music that gets stale, thoughts of Song faded away into oblivion as the Spaniard continued to excel in his new role, and there is also a hungry Francis Coquelin, that’s eager to prove his worth to the team.
However, the loss of van Persie has been hugely felt, as Arsenal has failed to get that player that could do the unexpected as well as those vital get-out-of-jail free cards. Speaking of unexpected, Gervinho’s early season performances were nothing short of jaw dropping, but his return to the wing coincided with some below-par outings but he’s currently facing a spell on the sidelines.
Theo Walcott has done well in his bit-part roles this season but it seems as if fatigue is taking its toll on Podolski, as he tends to vanish as matches progress till that inevitable moment when his number appears on the fourth official’s board.
However, my concern has been the lack of goals from van Persie’s replacement, Olivier Giroud. It took an eternity for last season’s Ligue 1’s top marksman to open his account at Arsenal in the 6 – 1 thrashing of Coventry, and I with many Gooners out there, believed that the floodgates where going to open, with goals flowing like, you know, water.
After another dry spell got two quick-fire goals for his club (against West Ham) and his country (against Spain), giving Arsenal fans something to drool about once again. He then had a spell on the dugout before scoring his third and latest Arsenal goal in the enthralling 7 – 5 win over Reading.
Giroud got into encouraging positions in Old Trafford, but sometimes, getting into goal scoring positions isn’t enough. In the same game, van Persie had a half chance when Thomas Vermaelen fluffed at Rafael’s cross and Manchester United was one goal to the good.
The French forward has admitted that goal scoring is an obsession for him, and he’s confident that they’ll start flowing on a regular basis,
“Scoring goals is an obsession for me, and probably for all strikers. I must admit, I’ve had a little bit of a difficult start but the boss and the coaches trust in me and just say, ‘Don’t worry, the goals will come soon. Continue to work hard in training – you have the right qualities’.
“I’m keeping confident and continuing to work hard. I scored many goals early on in my career, and when you score it obviously makes you feel better.
“But I’m happy at the moment, and I feel I did well when I came on against Reading in the League Cup. So everything is OK, I just need to keep working hard.”
I can’t argue about Giroud’s commitment in every game and a goal or two against Schalke tonight will go a long way in endearing himself into Arsenal hearts, as three points are paramount in this game.
Arsenal visit the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, knowing that a victory will be more than enough to take them back into pole position in Group B. In somewhat disappointing circumstances, Schalke dented Arsenal’s amazing 45-game unbeaten home record against non-English opposition at the Emirates, which in turn, allowed the German outfit to usurp the Gunners at the summit.
Arsene Wenger has acknowledged Arsenal’s good defensive fortunes in the Premier League but he has urged his team to revive their attacking flair and spark up their creative juices,
“I think what is most important right now is that we find our game back. Our game is about creating chances, about going forward, about having an offensive drive. What is most important is that we play again with our enthusiasm, desire to create chances and enjoy our game, more than thinking about if we concede a goal or not.”
To team news, Aaron Ramsey (groin) and Theo Walcott (illness) have added to Arsenal’s ever-increasing injury list. With the Ox and Gervinho out injured as well, Wenger will have a decision to make in choosing his right winger.
I expect Vito Mannone to continue in goal tonight. He made a couple of good saves against Manchester United to keep the scoreline flattering for the Gunners and I really hope he gets a clean sheet tonight.
In defense, I really want to see Laurent Koscielny back in action as Thomas Vermaelen and Andre Santos have been very poor this season. The Brazilian maverick has apologized for taking van Persie’s jersey but he has revealed what he used the jersey for. 😀
However, I won’t want to see Andre Santos play on the left back position tonight, judging from the torrid show he put up against Jefferson Farfan. Vermaelen can be drafted into the left back slot, thereby creating a slot for Kos the Boss. Per Mertesacker on the other hand, wants Arsenal to play like Schalke.
In midfield, I expect the triumvirate of Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla.
The goal-obsessed Giroud will spearhead the attack while Podolski will support him on the left but with the massive injuries to all right wing personnel, I would like to see the Russian hobbit, Andrey Arshavin, get a run-out as well.
I’m done here.
Here’s to an optimistic result tonight.
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