It’s a very late preview of the Shakhtar game today and I have to apologise for that. Better late then never though, I hope.
Tonight’s team will be much changed from the one that snuck a late win against West Ham. Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Denilson and Andrey Arshavin are all out with injuries (although Arsene Wenger’s use of the word “virus” to describe Arshavin’s problem could be rephrased as “dropped”) which will leave a similar team to the one that started in the Carling Cup a week ago.
Lukasz Fabianski is expected to start in goals, although there is no certainty, while the back four could see some changes. Our first-choice combination is Bacary Sagna, Sebastien Squillaci, Laurent Koscielny and Gael Clichy although it would be no surprise to see Wojciech Szczesny, Emmanuel Eboue or Johan Djourou get a start.
In midfield Jack Wilshere will return after a three-game absence and will likely be joined by fellow youngster Craig Eastmond in the holding role. Tomas Rosicky should play as the one true creative midfielder behind a front three of Samir Nasri on the left, Nicklas Bendtner in the centre and Theo Walcott on the right.
We may have beaten Shakhtar 5-1 at home just a fortnight ago but expectations of a repeat scoreline on their home turf, with this starting team, would be extremely optimistic. Indeed, the Ukrainian champions will give us a much better run for money at home and I have to say I would be somewhat surprised to see us come away with a victory.
Our defence is currently on a run of three consecutive clean sheets and given the return of Wilshere in the middle and the continuation of a strong back four, I hope we can make it four. Fabianski is in good form and the good communication between him and Squillaci, Koscielny and Djourou has been a great feature of the last few games.
Shakhtar failed to trouble us at all at The Emirates but with Eduardo expected to start they will be much more attacking. The advantage of having Walcott back in the side is the danger we will possess on the break and it wouldn’t make me unhappy to see Shakhtar have more of the ball. Bendtner and Walcott combined to devastating effect against Newcastle a week ago and if they can find the same combination then we will have chances to score.
After a run of rather interesting games I have to say I’m not too concerned or excited about tonight. Regardless of the result we should top the group while qualification looks a formality.
In saying that, the inclusion of several fringe players in the starting line-up should make things interesting. The likes of Walcott, Bendtner and perhaps Djourou (if he plays) will no doubt want to impress to put the pressure on their direct competitors. Arshavin beware, I say.
Anyway that’s really it. Apologies again for the lateness of this preview and enjoy the game!
Have your say on Arsenal v Shakhtar by leaving a comment.