On the back of Freddie Ljungberg’s first win as interim boss, Arsenal travel across the English Channel to face Standard Liège at their Stade de Sclessin for our final Europa League Group F clash.
Good day all. For the Gunners to advance to this season’s knockout stage the task is very simple, just avoid a heavy defeat; whilst Standard not only have to do the sensational to beat the North London side by five goals, but also rely on a result elsewhere going in their favour – sounds like a decent enough chance.
For Arsenal supporters the last few weeks haven’t been easy, but after an agonizing run the football gods finally smile down on us as Freddie finally got something to bounce off with a 3-1 victory at West Ham United. For large parts during the first half of that game it seemed like it’s going to be another of those nights, however, after the hour mark all that changed as football memories came flooding back and the boys remembered what they’re made of.
Freddie’s task will now be to keep the switch on, get back a sense of balance from which to create a stable platform to build so we can dominate games from the onset. We got such a talented group of players, one certainly more than capable of going all the way in the Europa. There are still a lots of work to be done though, so many edges that need smoothing instead of getting too ahead.
Standard Liège are unbeaten in five straight games (all competitions) since the last inter-break, a run in which they scored 10 goals. So they should feel reasonably encouraged coming into this one. They have quite a handy record at home too having won 12 of their last 14 matches in front of their own crowd.
The Gunners should be a different challenge to what they’re used to though, having already beaten them 4-0 in the reverse fixture. So if the home side got genuine designs on making it through to the ’round of 32′, simply beating the Gunners won’t cut it, they have to smash us. Meaning they got little option but to throw us with the kitchen sink from the first minute; which is the sort of desperation that could work in our favour as it will leave lots of open spaces in behind for us to take advantage of. So whatever any of you guys do make sure not to miss this one, or at least the first half, because it could be quite the spectacle.
Monday night took a bit out the squad with Nicolas Pépé (knee), Hector Bellerìn (hamstring), Kieran Tierney (shoulder) and Granit Xhaka (concussion) joining Dani Ceballos and Rob Holding on the sidelines. Shkodran Mustafi is suspended for this encounter.
Getting in the swing of the festive as fixtures comes thick and fast, we can expect quite a bit of rotation to ensure players are being kept fresh and others a few extra days to recover from knocks.
Coming off their first win in a while the Gunners will have a spring in the step and should feel confident of getting a result here. However, the Belgian’s home crowd are enjoying quite a ride with their side, and will be right behind them all the way hoping for an upset against a young-ish Gunners outfit. We should get some decent chances though in an expected open game.
Having seen some dire football in recent months, this game is going to be scrappy in bits but I doubt it will fall short in entertainment value. Get in there Arsenal… COYG!