What, already? UEFA Champions League football is back and Arsenal travel to the Parc des Princes on matchday one.
Every year, we show promise but seem destined to finish second in the group stages. From there onwards, we’re met by one of Europe’s elite (Barcelona or Bayern for instance) and despite a valiant effort, crash out.
In Monday’s press conference, Arsène Wenger stated his comfort with the current crop of first-team players at his disposal, saying the following:
“I was used to playing with much younger squads when we built the Emirates Stadium because we did not have the resources.”
Questions have been asked over the past few months in regards to whether Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez will put pen-to-paper on long-term contracts, and Wenger revealed they’ll “start to talk” about extending their current deals with a potential page rise in the offing.
Apart from Laurent Koscielny’s facial injury sustained late on against the Saints, there were no fresh injury doubts ahead of tomorrow’s fixture – although Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) was pictured in some individual training ahead of the trip to Paris, suggesting he could return to feature in some capacity with one eye on the KCOM Stadium (3pm KO) ahead of Saturday’s league fixture. While initially a doubt, Wenger confirmed that Kos will play.
After his impressive debut, Shkodran Mustafi is expected to continue in the centre of defence whilst Rob Holding could make his Champions League debut if Koscielny isn’t risked or cannot finish the full 90.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerín, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Cazorla, Xhaka; Walcott, Alexis, Özil; Giroud.
In comparison, Tuesday’s hosts have plenty of injury doubts to key players – including Thiago Silva (hip), fullback Layvin Kurzawa (hamstring) and Javier Pastore (foot).
Serge Aurier (ankle) was called up to training on Monday evening despite saying he was unavailable. Belgian right-back Thomas Meunier is expected to start after coming through unscathed during their 1-1 draw against Saint-Etienne on the weekend. If Silva, who is yet to feature this season, isn’t passed fit to start against Arsenal, Presnel Kimpembe could potentially make his Champions League debut in the centre of defence.
PSG have only lost one in 39 European home games, and will be aiming to extend that to a fantastic forty on Tuesday evening.
Possible XI (4-3-3): Trapp; Meunier, Kimpembe, Marquinhos, Kurzawa; Motta, Rabiot, Verratti; Lucas, di María, Cavani.
Crunch time is here
We’ve advanced from the group stages every year for the past 13 seasons and yet, progression in the Champions League seems reserved for those who prioritise it – unlike us, where it’s virtually a luxury to be playing amongst Europe’s elite.
Essentially that belief is negative, especially as we’re seen by many (in terms of quality and financial strength) as one of those teams who should really be performing better than we have in recent years.
Some could argue given their slow start to the new campaign in Ligue 1, this is the perfect time to play PSG. After all, they are without a victory in two and haven’t clicked under Unai Emery’s tutelage just yet.
With that being said, these stats and the fact they’ve been under-performing can play into their hands on Tuesday. Even without Zlatan in their ranks, they’re a strong side with plenty of quality in the ranks and their faltering form could motivate them to prevail in convincing fashion over their main rivals for top spot in the group.
If we’re to prove our credentials as a side that can be taken seriously in the Champions League, we’ll have to take each game as it comes but ultimately perform at a high level throughout. Otherwise it’ll be a case of new season, same old.
For a more in-depth review of PSG, have a listen to our bonus podcast in which we speak to French football expert, Lana Dawood. It’s quite a lively one, with nothing held back.
Post stats: Opta