Champions League or Premier League – Arsene Will Show His Priorities Tomorrow
Cesc’s hamstring is dominating the lead up to the encounter with Porto, Arsene has to decide whether or not the risk of aggravating the injury, and potentially the title challenge, is outweighed by the requirement to retrieve a one-goal deficit.
It is all reminscent of the first Champions League campaign hosted at The Emirates, PSV Eindhoven held a similarly slender lead – although Arsenal did not have what may turn out to be a precious away goal – with a key player, that time it was Thierry Henry, having an injury which ought to have precluded his involvement. It did not and the Premier League campaign limped to its conclusion, fourth place attained.
The chance of winning the remaining two competitions puts Wenger into the quandry, the solution for which he is paid to resolve. The crucial difference is that Arsene has better options available this time around. Samir Nasri excelled centrally following Fabregas’ withdrawal on Saturday, his performance being one that would have been purred about had it been Fabregas.
Prioritising competitions has been something which Wenger has been slated for, the FA Cup criticism I can understand but that which followed the Carling Cup exit is somewhat baffling. The manager has made no bones about the fact that he will always play a youthful team in that competition, using it as an opportunity to blood inexperience to ensure that they are ready for Premier League action when required. Or at least better prepared than would otherwise be the case.
The FA Cup holds a unique position in English football, perhaps the importance that is attached to it is unique in world football. But it is losing it’s shine, a fact emphasised by the Football Association who have acknowledged that something needs to be done about it. One idea they are considering is that it becomes a midweek competition, no replays and only the semi-finals onwards held on weekends. Quite how that fits into an already crowded calendar is another matter unless the League Cup finishes its course before Christmas, which would make life simpler but ultimately be the death knell for that competition.
Including Nasri in the central position resolves another issue for Wenger; who to play on the left. Having been the footballing equivalent of Cabaret Voltaire’s Groovy, Laidback and Nasty on Saturday, Theo Walcott is going to surely start on the right. Perhaps his goal and general second half performance will bolster his confidence. Certainly his speed will concern the Porto defence, a back four which will receive support from the midfield in greater numbers than in the first leg.
It means a toss up between Tomas Rosicky and Andrey Arshavin. Both are highly creative but attacking threat is enhanced with Arshavin, more likely to produce a goal or two than his Czech peer, something which may be needed if Bendtner has an equally profligate evening in front of goal. Yet Rosicky offers more protection to Gael Clichy, something which was noticeable when the Russian entered the fray on Saturday.
Conceding an away goal is something Wenger will be keen to avoid tomorrow night, unless of course Arsenal are away and out of sight in the tie, when conceding becomes almost irrelevant. It is not the usual way of thinking about the two players but may be something which crosses Arsene’s mind when selecting the team, if he has not already done so.
Posted on March 8, 2010, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Cesc Fabregas, Champions League, FC Porto, Football, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 164 Comments.