After another solid performance in the league encounter against Pompey, Wenger turns his attention towards the 2nd leg of the Champions League Qualifier. Ahead on 2 goals and the advantage of the away goals rule, few punters will place their house on Celtic to go through to the group stage.
No matter how comfortable the position Arsenal find themselves in, every player must still exert some form of caution ahead of the tie. We all know how teams who were well confident and took the game lightly fell to an unexpected result (though off the top of my head, I can’t remember any such game). Bearing in mind Celtic did go to Moscow and pull off an away win to overturn a first leg deficit, an away win which no cleared some doubt regarding the travel form. Tony Mowbray will look to send out a more attacking side than the one he chose a week ago. I expect McDonald to partner Fortune upfront and McGeady to orchestrate the attack.
There will be no Fabregas in the Arsenal side tonight as he looks to be healing his hamstring concern to ensure that he’s fit enough for the Old Trafford game. Following his 2 goals exploit at the weekend, Abou Diaby will be first choice to replace the captain. Touted as Vieiraesque by Wenger, Diaby needs to start showing that he can play more than the odd game while not missing thrice as many in between those games. He will be vying the position together with Aaron Ramsey who scored one himself at the weekend. That would help him regain some of the confidence that went away at that all-too-awful game at Cardiff in the FA Cup last season. At that time, it was more a of a 1 step forward and 3 steps back for the young Welshman.
Arsenal do not need to score to advance to the group stage, which is exactly why I think Van Persie should be rested after starting 3 games so far. Wenger will be looking to seal the tie by halftime or at worst by the 60th minute so that he can start to look at resting players. Merida and Wilkshere will be desperate to get an oppourtunity to impress.
With one feet into the next stage, the players will need to stay focus and not be overly confident if they want to ensure that Wenger gets his 11th consecutive Champs League season. Complacency is not a feature that can or should be associated with Arsenal Football Club.