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Mertesacker Arsenal TV 121117PAFC

Champions League once again. Started with that, then decided to go watch Skyfall instead. Come back to continue only to find that Chelsea has sacked Roberto Di Matteo. Doubt it’s the defeat to Juventus that lead to his dismissal. More likely to be a combination of a number of results or perhaps even internal issues that cannot be resolved. But this is not a Chelsea blog but there’s a connection which I want to talk about.

The job to manage the top clubs in England are becoming harder and harder. Managers could no longer survive based on one single triumph in the Premier League nor the Champions League. Yes, Chelsea could be an exception to the case but let’s not forget the constant murmurs about the other Roberto. The one that won the league at Manchester City who could yet be join Di Matteo in “gardening leave” if his side do fall out of the Champions League by the end of the group stage.

Does that mean that Arsene Wenger deserve the same treatment, or should have long got the boot, given the lack of trophies since 2005? By the same measurement, it would be had to make a case for the board keeping Wenger on the paycheck. Yet, things could never be measured the same way. There are different premise on which Arsenal works. That’s not to say success isn’t measured by trophies, because it is. The manager’s lacked of success in that area should warrant at least a discussion on the future of his employment.

15 years of successive CL qualifications is a magnificent feat considering the changes that English football landscape has gone through since the billionaires realised that football clubs could become a hobby. I’m not taking that lightly but we should really be aspiring to be more than that. If we don’t, then wouldn’t it be like we’re stagnant? It could be argued that the competition becomes tougher and tougher, and it needs us to improve to even be in the position to continually participate in Europe’s elite cup competition. A point that I will accept.

With the constraints reigning in on Wenger to even maintain being stagnant, I believe that he has done a more than impeccable job. Yes, on the balance of hindsight, some of the decisions that he has made throughout these lean years may not have been the right ones. Perhaps the sentimental side of me have ensured that I’m firmly behind the “Arsene Knows Best” camp. At some point the hard decision have to be made if things persist the way it is. Tonight, Wenger continues that fight in the very competition that we’ve gotten accustomed to having.

The team should be buoyed by the weekend thrashing of our closest rival, both in terms of land proximity and also in terms of the league standing prior to the last match. The confidence which should bring us a step closer to qualification to the next stage of the competition. If the other result goes our way, we might even achieve the progress tonight. Montpellier, our opponent in the first match in Europe this season, stands between us and 3 points. They proved to be a tough nut to crack in the first encounter but results since, should make this and easier game for us. Not discounting the fact that we’re playing at home this time around.

Team news suggest that Kieran Gibbs might be in line for a return to the side, as does Gervinho. However, we are not allowed to add players without replacing those in the hands of the injury gods. Theo Walcott and Andre Santos are the two who will miss out tonight as we maintain the balance in the treatment room. Given his injury track record, I’d be a little more cautious with Gibbs. It’s an important game but not big enough for us to risk his long term involvement in the squad this season. Unless he is sufficiently rid of the injury that has kept him out in recent games, then I don’t think we should mess with the back four from the last game.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, fresh from not answering a single question I posted to him during the AskTheOx session, should be the one to come in for Walcott. The younger of the Southampton recruits have been struggling for his own fitness but after being on the bench the last time around, should get the nod ahead of the returning Gervinho. As clinical as the Ivorian has been in the early part of the season, I believe that it’s an anomaly rather than improvement, just like our defence. Not sure how long Walcott is going to be out but this is definitely a chance for AOC to show some consistency in his game.

Szczesny — Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Vermaelen — Carzola Arteta Wilshere — Ox Giroud Podolski

From the first game, we know that Montpellier could be dangerous if we allow them to. Lille’s result yesterday showed that even for teams that have little to play for, they could harm our ambition. The French champions are not to be taken lightly and we cannot expect to stroll through the game. Turn up and we could beat them easily. Complacent, and there will be plenty of angst around the Goonerworld come tomorrow morning. Just like it is for AOC, it’s time we ask for some form of consistency from the team.

Up The Arsenal!!!