Standard Liege - Match Preview

Arsenal can put the frustrations of the weekend behind them tonight as they play host to Standard Liege in the Champions League, needing just one point to qualify for the knockout stages.  Reacting well to disappointments has been one of Arsenal’s strengths this season. Tonight is the perfect opportunity for Wenger’s men to demonstrate this once again, while regaining the scoring knack that saw them ripple the net in every game this season prior to the 1-0 loss at Sunderland on Saturday.
These expectations could fall on the shoulders of our very own Carlos Vela, who Wenger compared to Robbie Fowler today.
“Vela is a fantastic talent and he is 20-years-old,” said Wenger. “We have invested a lot of time for him because we put him in Spain for two years, got him back and now we work with him every day.
“I believe he is a Robbie Fowler-type. He needs very little time to make a decision in the box. He is relaxed when he finishes and he has very short backlift. He is aswell left-footed and he is a similar size.”
Vela came on as a second half-substitute against Sunderland and in the short time he had looked like Arsenal’s biggest threat. If the referee for the day had been Mark Clattenburg, Vela might even have earned Arsenal a penalty, instead play continued and Clattenburg was at the KC Stadium giving Hull a dodgy spot-kick.
With Van Persie out of the picture, this is perfect timing for Carlos Fowler to step into the mould. Undoubtedly Vela has the quality, more poignantly in his tasteful finishing, but Wenger’s timing to express his thoughts on Vela is strange.
In the build up to the Carling Cup clash with Liverpool last month, we were left bemused when Wenger left Vela out of the squad without any reason and the Mexican’s time at Arsenal has been patchy. He doesn’t come across as the ideal replacement for RVP but his willingness to remain at Arsenal and hunt for an opening in the team must be admired. Let’s hope he can be replied upon.
One certainty is that Gibbs will retake his position in the starting line-up tonight. This is good news as Armand Traore looked extremely uncomfortable in place of Gibbs at the weekend. Too often he was sucked in by Sunderland’s strikers, and at times even forgot to look over his shoulder at the surrounding dangers.
What Gibbs offers Arsenal though is attacking vitality from the back. Throughout Wenger’s reign, full-backs have been a key position in Arsenal’s attacking force and Gibbs is not afraid of joining the front men.
We are bound to see this difference tonight as Gibbs has the energy to support tired legs. Against Sunderland the panache just wasn’t there as hefty international schedule might have taken its toll on certain players.
Gibbs might have been the edge Arsenal needed to find the net and he could be the difference tonight. Its big news the young Englishman returns ahead of the Chelsea game on Sunday.
From one Englishman to another as Theo Walcott returns to action. Liege could be the ideal game to ease him back into the side as would the Carling Cup tie away at Man City next week.
Fabregas was singing Walcott’s praises this week explaining how he looks sharp in training and how he still has a major role to play in the season. With ambitions still of reaching England’s World Cup Squad for South Africa we should expect Theo to re-enter the team with a rush.
Sometimes – and I hate to say it – Arsenal lack a little pace in midfield and up-front since Adebayor’s departure. I’m talking raw pace which Theo certainly has and it will good to see the road-runner in full flow again.
Denilson is another who returns to first team action tonight. With injuries beginning to mount up in midfield – Diaby looks to be out for three weeks – and Song set for the African Cup of Nations in January, it is important we have the Brazilian ball-retender back.
We wait to see who makes the team tonight, but whoever plays, this should be a game that ties up group proceedings. Come on the boys.

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