Eduardo makes an emotional return to Arsenal with a Shakhtar side I know very little about. The Crozilian might not get a start and that tells me the Ukrainian side have a strong squad. They’ve won both their Champions League games so far and have won 15 out of 17 in their domestic league. Put simply, they’re a strong European side and anything less than a fully focused performance can see us drop crucial points.
There were no surprises in what the visiting manager Mircea Lucescu said,
I hope it will be a very good match. They will control the game for sure, it’s normal because they’re at home and they have many creative players. We have to be organised and cause them difficulties on the counterattack. It’s difficult to say we’re here to play an attacking game because it depends on Arsenal, what with them being at home, but we can create big problems for them.
Tactically, this game would probably be similar to playing teams like Villa or Everton at home. The onus will be on Arsenal to break them down while keeping the counter-attacking threat in check. I’m not sure the Ukrainian side will have a defence as strong as the English sides but they might be much more lethal on the break with their quick and tricky Brazilians.
We could see how good Shakhtar were on the counter attack when they scored three away to Braga. Granted they had a bit of luck as the Braga keeper made a big blunder but there is no doubt about the quality of Douglas Costa or Luis Adriano. Shakhtar fans will be hoping Costa is able to recover from his injury in time to start this game. Without him they might lack the cutting edge.
Considering the fact that Braga were able to create plenty of clear chances against Shakhtar, I think we can score a few goals in this game if we are clinical enough. I expect Arshavin to be a big player in this game as he has thrives in the more open and less physical European games.
It will be interesting to see the line-up Arsene picks. I can’t see many changes to the back five but Gibbs could come in for Clichy. I’d certainly prefer to see the youngster get this game as we need a fresh Clichy for the visit to City at the end of the week.
Wenger has some big decisions to make as far as the midfield is concerned. Will Cesc get a start? If there is any doubt about his match fitness then half an hour at the end would be the best option. I remember we rushed him back against Villa only to lose him for a few more weeks. We can win this game without El Capitan so it’d seem like an unnecessary risk.
Wilshere is suspended for the three games in England so it would be much better to play him in this game. That means Arsene will have to pick four out of Arshavin, Diaby, Denilson, Song, Rosicky, and Nasri. I’m not considering Walcott for a start for reasons similar to the ones I mentioned for Cesc.
I’d like to see Arshavin, Song, Denilson, and Rosicky start this game. This will allow us to rest Diaby and Nasri before the visit to City. It will also allow Wilshere to play in a more advanced role in which he excelled against Partizan. Chamakh will retain his place as the focal point of the attack.
This would give us a strong bench with great variety as Cesc, Walcott, Bendtner, Nasri, Clichy and Diaby can all make an impact if necessary. If not, then we could just give Fabregas, Theo, and Nicklas a few minutes of game time.
The starting eleven I’m suggesting is,
Fabianski – Eboue, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs – Song, Wilshere, Denilson – Arshavin, Chamakh, Rosicky.
No matter who Wenger picks, we’ll have to be vary of their pace and movement. Djourou and Squillaci will have to read the game really well because the Shakhtar attackers are likely to be technically superior to the players from Birmingham and they’ll make some intelligent runs. Our defenders won’t have to worry that much about an aerial attack in this game but Srna will provide some quality on the set-pieces.
I think this game will be another good test for Djourou and Fabianski. If we don’t see an individual error from the back five we could keep a clean sheet but I don’t want to jinx it by hoping for it. I’ll go for a 3-1 win.