By Felix Law
Ahead of tonight’s Group A home clash with Ludogorets (Bulgarian Champions), Arsene Wenger will try to attack from the very first minute considering the Gunners rich run of form of late. In the Premier League, Arsenal are unbeaten in seven games drawing one after suffering a 4-3 loss in the season opener to Liverpool. Arsenal’s fortress has been their attack having scored 19 goals in eight league games so far. This is basically due to the rich form of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott. Together the attacking players have become almost unplayable as the likes of Chelsea and Watford will rightly testify . Another good news is the fact that Wenger will be a relieved man as the likes of Oliver Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have both recovered from toe and hamstring injuries respectively.
In the Champions League, Arsenal will be looking to make it seven points from three games having drawn PSG at home and beating Basel 2-0 away. The Champions League for decades have been Arsenal and Wenger’s holy grail having reached the final once in their illustrious history and to make matters worse losing 2-1 on that cold night in Paris to a Ronaldinho inspired Barcelona under Frank Rjikaard in 2006. This season, Wenger has opted to rotate his goalkeepers with Colombian David Ospina preferred in the Champions League while veteran Petr Cech takes charge in the Premier League. Arsenal are tipped as favourites in today’s game considering the gulf in class between the two teams but unfortunately this might not be the case tonight as football is full of uncertainties.
Wenger is expected to start with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Granit Xhaka expected to return to action in the centre of midfield after seeing red in the league game against Swansea. Xhaka is expected to partner Santi Cazorla while Moreal, Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny and Hector Bellerin retain their spots in defence. It is not as if this is expected to be a straight forward game for the North London side but considering their impressive form , Ludogorets will be lucky to escape without a resounding beating if they don’t assert themselves. Wenger will be looking to win this game In order to finish top of the group as he might be paired with heavyweights like Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid as was the case last season when the finished second to Bayern Munich.
Ludogorets on their own are still finding their feet in the competition as they have leaped ahead of Levski Sofia to become the undisputed champions of the Bulgarian league. This season Ludogorets beat Czech Republic champions Viktoria Plzen (4-2 on aggregate) in the playoff despite having less experience and financial strength in the competition compared to the Czech’s.
To beat Arsenal, coach Georgi Dermendzhiev will have to watch the clips of Arsenal’s last game with Swansea’s winger Barrow exposing Nacho Monreal times without number resulting in the two goals the Welsh side scored. Arsenal are anything but defensively solid even though the signing of Mustafi for £35 million from Valencia has covered most of their gaps in defence this season. The North London side struggle when played high and rarely cope with an excessive energetic interplay in their final third as the loss to Liverpool did show in the season opener. Ludogorets will have the Brazilian trio of Marcelo, Cafu and Wenderson in form if they are to achieve any memorable result on the night. Having drawn Basel in their first game and lost last time at home to PSG ( 3-1) in the second game, Ludogorets will have to win today in order not to exit the competition in the group stage.
Expect a high scoring game with Arsenal favourites to win .
Prediction– Arsenal 3- Ludogorets 1.