On to the next one, on to the next.
6 wins from 6, next up to face The Arsenal Juggernaut is Ludogorets of Bulgaria. And we can fully expect Arsene Wenger to shuffle his squad to keep players fresh.
According to UEFA’s coefficient points ranking, Ludogorets are the 3rd worst team in this years Champions League. Only Copenhagen and Rostov are ranked worse. UEFA rank them worse than awful teams such as Legia Warsaw, Celtic and Spurs.
Half their side are Bulgarian cow farmers, and they plan to go to Wickes in Edmonton to pick up the rest of their players, offering £30 a day. Cash.
Let’s be honest, it should be a walk over (or will probably eat these words and have loads of opposing fans tweeting this blog to me when we lets slip a 2-0 win). And that is why Arsene Wenger is likely to rotate his squad.
Cup keeper David Ospina is likely to keep his Champions League place. Unlike last year when he decided to catch the ball then carry it into his own net (was he ever investigate for betting irregularities?), he has actually performed well in the Champions League this year. A MOTM performance against PSG followed by a clean sheet against Basel. I could play in goal against Ludogorets and keep a clean sheet. In fact I would not be surprised if I face their players in 5-a-side at Chingford Goals on Thursday.
Carl Jenkinson is nearing full fitness, but a return against Ludogorets might be a little early, too much of a risk. He will be pencilled in for the League Cup (is it still called that?) tie at home to Reading. Hector Bellerin will continue in the side.
At centreback, I expect one to be rested and rotated. I do not think Wenger will be tempted to leave both Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi out. Taking into account Koscileny’s previous injury record with his back and achilles, a mid week break will do him now harm. Expect Mustafi to partner Gabriel.
As discussed at the weekend, Nacho Monreal is struggling. Kieran Gibbs will be given the chance to force his way back into the first team.
With Granit Xhaka set to be suspended for 3 games, the Swiss hardman will get a start in the Champions League. I am sure in Wenger’s mid-term planning he would have scheduling the game against the cow farmers as one for Xhaka to miss, but circumstances mean it is now pointless resting him.
Alongside Xhaka will be either Francis Coquelin or Mohamed Elneny. Both were probably likely to start tonight, but Xhaka’s suspension leaves space for just one. It will be whoever Wenger plans to play instead of Xhaka in the next couple of games. My money is on Elneny as it is only Middlesbrough at home this weekend. Cazorla will be able to give a rest to his tiny but talented feet.
At the top of the triangle, Wenger will play Mesut Ozil. When a player of his quality and fitness is in the type of form he is in, you just leave him in the side. And with no Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere, and Santi Cazorla and Alex Iwobi in need for a rest, Ozil will play.
Wenger is likely to give a rest to Alex Iwobi on the left hand side. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be given the chance to show he still has a future at Arsenal after his Goals on Sunday interview.
On the right hand side, expect Theo Walcott to start. With Alexis Sanchez upfront. I only say this because I have just looked at the official pictures of Arsenal training ahead of the Ludogorets game and both are wearing a green bib. Olivier Giroud is not yet fully fit, although he is back in full training – expect him and Aaron Ramsey to start against Read – and Lucas Perez seems to have gone AWOL. Where Perez has gone is maybe another blog.
Arsenal XI v Ludogorets
Bellerin Mustafi Gabriel Gibbs
Walcott Ozil Ox