Kickoff – 1945 GMT
Swiss champions Basel travel to The Emirates for tonights game, and there are a few twists in this match that gives it a little extra zest.
The second group game in our Champions League campaign sees a reunion of sorts, with Granit Xhaka given a chance to see former teammates a lot sooner than he realised. Not only that, but his brother will be on the other team too.
Taulant Xhaka, older brother of Gunner Granit, will be part of the defence that will look to stifle Arsenal’s creativity, and on the evidence of their previous meeting at Euro2016 for their respective countries – there will be no room for sentiment on the pitch.
The links don’t end there. Our Egyptian, Mohamed Elneny, is also a former Basel player, and he will be champing at the bit to play a part in this game.
His chances of doing so improved dramatically during our comprehensive 3-0 win over Chelsea in the weekend. Francis Coquelin went off injured after 30minutes with a knee injury, so will not be part of the squad. Arsene Wenger reassured fans during his press conference for this game that the French battler has not suffered a long term injury and the prognosis is 3-4 weeks layoff – which isn’t exactly what Gooners want to hear after previous diagnosis of the same length….
Olivier Giroud is also not part of the squad, but it matters little after he was sent off in Paris in the previous CL game. So, will Alexis continue his excellent job upfront? Or will duties be shared with Lucas Perez? The Spaniard will be well suited to European endeavours over Premiership outings as he has yet to fully adapt to the rough and tumble of domestic fixtures, so Lucas may just get the nod ahead of the Chilean – although we are all painfully aware that Alexis does NOT like to be rested.
Will we continue with the ‘Cup Keeper’ premise? The initial reaction to include David Ospina in the team against PSG was derision and bewilderment, but his Man of the Match performance reminded us all what he is capable of. The Colombian will more than likely be given the gloves again, but what of the rest of the team?
Granit Xhaka is in prime position to continue his domination of midfield, and Mohamed Elneny will be looking to get on the teamsheet, with his only rival for the spot being Santi Cazorla – and the diminutive Spaniard has played in nearly every game so far, so a rest is overdue.
With our next game being a trip to Turf Moor on Sunday, and no game is a gimme in the Premier League, Wenger may opt to rotate his men. The numbers at his disposal has never been greater, but he must take care not to shift focus from this game as Basel have experience in dishing out lessons to English teams – Man Utd and Liverpool can testify to this.
Yet another dilemma that the modern day manager faces, but Wenger has buckets of experience, and scars, that should put him in the right direction.
The opposition are not to be underestimated, but what is most important is the continuation of the winning habit. Whether it be Champions League, EFL Cup or the Premier League, a loss can be hugely disruptive to the confidence of the team.
We have been through the rough start, and those very early results were akin to a kid learning to ride a bike – we weaved, bobbed and shook, but now we’ve got the hang of it, and we are whizzing away.
Let us just hope our sibling and friends don’t knock us off……
Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott, Lucas Perez
Predicted score – 3-1