Not often do we hear Wenger reel out his squad to play on the eve of a game, but such is the little esteem which the manager has for this game that he has given Hamza Hamzaoglu all he needs to know about the team he’ll have to face on Tuesday evening.
Wenger, perhaps the most pressured man in the world, chose not to waste time over giving any specifics on the injuries of unavailable players, making a roll call of his first XI instead. While many would have been stunned by the option of Hector Bellerin at left-back, and the return of Debuchy the real boost from the returnees from long term injuries, the selection of what is certainly a new look attack would have had most persons interested.
For the first time this seaon, Arsenal will line-up in a Champions League game without either one of Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck or Santi Cazorla, to be replaced by Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell.
Wenger had promised to field a strong team good enough to win the game, bringing to the questioning board the strength of the trio selected. While Yaya Sanogo can claim he would have been more involved with the squad this season were it not for recurring hamstrings, Podolski and Campbell have virtually been hoping on training sessions as the only chance to kick the football. Both last started a game in September, and the fact it ended in a defeat to us has not given Wenger much by way of reasons to give them more minutes.
But can these two left-footed Gunners kick on now?
For Sanogo, the signs are good. Having gone a whole year without a competitive goal, it took him just 79 seconds to opening the scoring against almighty Dortmund last Matchday. The consensus is that the young French man, who has been prolific with his home country’s Under-21s, is still raw and will need to fine-tune his technique to fulfill what Wenger desires of him. What he surely has, even as a very youngman, is the ability to hold his own irrespective of the pedigree of the challenging defenders, as we saw against Bayern Munich last seaon. Like Giroud, he holds the ball up well, dropping deep to win it and open up space for runners beyond him.
Verdict: May not score within 79 seconds, but should be a worry to Felipe Melo all night.
Podolski played his best as a left-wing forward in his first season and will look to take advantage of Alexis’s rest to rediscover his form. We would still have had need to scrap a vital point from Galatasaray if not for his last gasp belter at Anderlecht. For most, he is dead certain to be on his way out by January and he has not made secret of his displeasure with a lack of regular opportunities. Wenger will favour Sanogo as the leading striker, meaning Podli could start as the left-wing forward. He’s excelled there as against being the Number 9. He’s to show he still can.
Verdict: Will get chances to score, but must make sure he helps out Bellerin.
So Campbell finally gets another chance? At least, he could give Wenger reason to consider him more if he puts in a good shift. A good passer of the ball, there is no doubt Campbell loves the Arsenal way and his speed should complement the Ox who would have to drop to central midfield. At 22, he still has a lot of football in him, and Oh, we wish, he will develop and bloom here.
Verdict: Should have the best game of the three.
Who among the three do you think will have a better game?
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