Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Wenger to gamble in Italy: Four changes expected as Gunners target win

Morning Gooners.

The final Champions League group game is upon us and the good thing is we know what we have to do. Win tonight's game against Napoli and we'll finish top of the group. Draw and we'll still go through as Group F winners.

And you would be mistaken if you thought then this was an easy situation for Arsene Wenger. He's got to balance his team because in the back of his mind he knows this Saturday's game against Manchester City is also important.

However his first priority is to win the group to hopefully avoid a tricky opponent in the next round of the competition. In their two previous matches at home in this competition, the Italians have beaten Borussia Dortmund 2-1 on the opening day and won 3-2 against Marseille on Matchday Four last month.

A draw would not see Napoli progress as Dortmund will no doubt beat this group's whipping boys Marseille tonight. It all makes for an exciting evening of football.

With Manuel Pellegrini able to make wholesale changes last night - even if he did get his maths wrong - and the fact his team have an extra days rest ahead of our Saturday lunchtime kick-off, Wenger isn't in the same position and that is why he's taken a virtually full strength squad to Naples with him.

There has to be room for some rotation. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw pretty much the same team who were deployed successfully against Hull City last Wednesday play tonight. That would mean Wojciech Szczesny behind Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. Carl Jenkinson and Nacho Monreal starting in the full back positions. Mathieu Flamini sitting in front of the back four with Aaron Ramsey alongside him. And in the attacking three positions behind Nicklas Bendtner, I'd give Theo Walcott his first start since returning from injury alongside Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla.

That would ensure Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Olivier Giroud got some sort of rest ahead of this weekend's game in Manchester.

Of course it's a gamble, but one which I think we can afford to take. What we cannot afford to do is concede an early goal. That would put us on the back foot from the off. We've been defensively very stable for more than a month now, allowing the opposition to score just twice in eight games.

That's a foundation we've got to build on. We've got to be defensively solid, make sure we don't lose and then hopefully score on the counter attack With Napoli having everything still to play for it's going to be an exciting match.

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