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So we’ve finally come to the our start of the Champions League campaign and I’m excited. Then again I’m always excited whenever there is an Arsenal game. Arsene Wenger says we are 1 of 10 clubs that are capable of lifting the trophy and frankly I agree with him on 9 of those teams (you know the one I don’t agree). Optimistic is the right word here.
The manager has certainly moulded a team that is capable to challenge in the European fixture and gone are those days when we worry about facing sides like PSV or Dynamo Kiev. Arsenal have moved up from that bracket into the elite echelon of European football. The only clubs which the team could/should lose to are within those 8 others which Wenger mentioned. Anything else would be considered a failure.
Sporting Braga are the first opponent in our group and frankly I do not see anything other than a clear cut Arsenal win here. Despite being unable to count on the service of Robin Van Persie, Theo Walcott, Thomas Vermaelen, Abou Diaby, Nicklas Bendtner and Aaron Ramsey; we still should have too much firepower for Braga. This is my take on the possible line-up for tonight;
That will see both our regular fullbacks reinstalled to the line-up. Coming back from 2 international games, both Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy were afforded some respite during the visit of Bolton and I assume both will get a start tonight. Elsewhere I only expect another 1 more change, that is to replace Jack Wilshere with Denilson.
Little Jack will be disappointed to miss out on the game tonight but I do not want the team to take the threat of Braga lightly. As Wenger rightly said, they did finish ahead of Porto in the Portuguese League last season and that is no small feat. Denilson is an option that can provide a more solid defensive side of the game than Wilshere. Wenger is wary of the counter attacking play from Braga and that will be the basis to choose between the two.
Although Samir Nasri is fit once again, he should not be risked for tonight’s game. I prefer to ease him back to the squad to ensure that we keep him fit for the long run. His replacement has not done too badly and that to me is the real pleasant surprise of the season so far. I am one of those who opined that should there be a departure in the midfield engine, it should be Tomas Rosicky. The Czech captain is capable of great things but have not shown enough in Arsenal colours.
However, he has started this season with a bang and has looked influential every time he is on the pitch. The Little Mozart has defied opinions that thinks he is past it. Perhaps it was the long absence out with injury that meant his form was not that good. Those 1.5 years without competitive football can make even a great player struggle.
This is also another chance for the new centreback pairing to showcase their worth. They were both solid enough in the Bolton game, bar the one mistake by Laurent Koscielny which cost Manuel Almunia his clean sheet. Of course, Vermaelen is first choice in that position but if the former duo can perform well consistently, it would be a very good thing. As it means that we will have a choice to rotate whenever necessary and not worry that the change will cost us.
Enjoy the game tonight. Till tomorrow.