Arsene Wenger says tonight’s Champions League clash against Paris Saint Germain is a good opportunity for Arsenal to beat a big team, as the Gunners look to seal top spot in Group A. Alexis Sanchez’s late equaliser snatched an unlikely 1-1 draw in Paris back in September, and both sides have won all three group games since.
Wenger’s side have stumbled slightly in recent weeks following home draws against Middlesbrough and Spurs, and a turgid display at Old Trafford on Saturday produced another 1-1 draw. Nevertheless, they remain only three points from the Premier League summit and are in a strong position in Europe. Wenger said:
“We had created a momentum [up to the beginning of November] but we have been a bit stuttering recently because we have not been winning games.
“We want to build that momentum up again. We need to show we can win against a big team, so it’s more important for us to do the job. It would send out a statement.”
Arsenal’s performances in ‘big games’ have become something of a trope; with sceptical commentators questioning their ability to perform ‘when it matters’. These doubts are not without some validity, but a balanced approach would be more enlightening. In the last 12 months, Wenger’s side have beaten Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Bayern Munich at the Emirates. In the same period, they have dropped points against West Brom, Norwich, Southampton, Swansea, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough. The idea that Arsenal sweep aside the lesser likes with ease but fall short in the heavyweight clashes needs to be tempered. Moreover, the definition of ‘big game’ is subjective, and sometimes it seems those who want to criticise Arsenal retrospectively define the ‘big games’ as those they do not win.
Elsewhere, in a bizarre turn of events PSG defender Serge Aurier has been ruled out of tonight’s game after UK authorities refused him a visa. Aurier was handed a two-month prison sentence in September for violence against a police officer, a sentence that was converted to community service. Ivorian Aurier was refused French citizenship five years ago, and as a non-EU national requires a visa to enter the country. Overall, this seems like a situation for which a solution should have been found but it is good news for Arsenal. Aurier caused them all manner of problems in the first game with his overlapping runs down the right flank, with Nacho Monreal suffering a torrid time in Paris.
Finally, in an interview with French outlet L’Equipe, Francis Coquelin has stated his desire to see out his career at Arsenal. The midfield ball winner has been at the club since 2008, but established himself as a first-team regular in unlikely circumstances midway through the 2014-15. Competition for places in Arsenal’s midfield is fierce, but Coquelin has responded well and no other player quite brings his speed and bite in the challenge. Coquelin said:
“So at the moment things are going well and my inclination is to stay at Arsenal for as long as possible. But then there has to be that desire on both sides.
“I think I’m already at a very, very big club. Spending the rest of my career at Arsenal would make me very proud.”
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