The potential significance of Arsenal’s game against Basel in the Champions League tonight will probably never come to fruition thanks to a game taking place in France.
For it is an odds on certainty that Arsene Wenger’s outfit will finish second in Group A of the competition and thus face a “top team” in the knockout stages which will give fans the chance to bet on the best games with ease when the competition resumes in February. Ludogorets Razgrad, who sit firmly at the bottom of the table, would have to chalk up a remarkable result against group winners-elect Paris Saint Germain for that scenario to change.
But for two Gunners players, midfielders Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny, nothing of the occasion at a hostile St Jakob-Park will be lost to the mists of time whatever the outcome. It’ll be a memory they will savour for years to come.
That’s because the Arsenal stars once represented the Swiss outfit and the time they spent at the “RotBlau” unquestionably added to their football education and helped them on their journey, the segment of which finds them currently plying their trade for Wenger in north London.
Egypt ace Elneny says he enjoyed his time on the Rhine and has pointed out that an introduction to European football with Basel was vitally important in gaining much-needed experience to add to his natural hunger, desire and ambition.
“I am very happy that I will be going back to my former club Basel. I was there for three years and have fantastic memories of the players, fans, people in the streets and also my friends in Basel.
“I was very happy there and of course I am delighted to go back to catch up with the people there and experience the feeling of playing in Basel again.”
“Playing for Basel was very important for my career. I represented the club in the Champions League, Europa League and the Swiss league. So for me I gained a lot of experience during my time at Basel.”
“I had move to a European league which is very different from playing in Egypt. So everything I learnt there helped me when I moved to Arsenal. It was a beautiful time of my career, I achieved important things and I learnt a lot during my time there. I am very happy with my overall experience there.”
Wenger may well give Alexis Sanchez a night off given that the Gunners have qualified for the last 16 and he could turn to Spanish attacker Lucas Perez as his replacement up front.
Whoever he decides to select, the fact that this competition gets tougher and tougher with each passing season isn’t lost on the French coach. And that is the case once teams have qualified, too, he says, with the standard of opposition proving testing.
“It looks quite even if you finish first or second. The advantage of finishing first is you play the second leg at home, and possibly 30 minutes of extra time at home. We’ll see. PSG are favourites to beat Ludogorets at home and win the group, but we can assess that scoreline at half-time and see where we go.”