Arsenal Travel Up North - Celtic Preview

Before I look forward to tonight’s battle of Britain Champions League tie, a quick note on that thumping at Goodison.  Much will be made of our attacking prowess, our ability to play football on the floor and succeed so brilliantly, and rightly so, however, I want to look at our performance at the other end.  Last season, I feel we would have folded within the first 30 minutes had we been put under similar pressure.
This season however, something looked different and it seemed to me that new signing Thomas Vermaelen made that difference.  The obvious sign was during the reply of Fabregas’ first goal.  If one looked passed the surging Fabregas, one would see Vermaelen screaming to his defenders while he led them out.  The defence has lacked leadership and discipline but this was a very positive sign.
Gallas played his best years alongside John Terry who was very much a defensive leader.  It seems Gallas is a reactive defender; by that I mean he works off a dominant defensive partner to cover in behind.  Vermaelen’s debut was very encouraging; to excel away at Everton bodes very well.  He dealt with any aerial threat and put his head in wherever it was needed; he was not afraid to kick what need to be kicked and he even provided a threat during out attacking set pieces.   It was nice to see an Arsenal defender that would not be bulled, and one that went around firmly in the tackle, putting his body on the line for the team.
Sagna and Clichy looked more like their old selves as they played well at the back.  Rarely did Piennar and Osman get a sniff down the flanks the two Frenchman stifled Everton’s threat from out wide.  Rarely did crosses come in which is a tribute to the way in which our full backs shut down any threat.  These two guys struggled last season but I expect them to push on this season and show why they were so highly thought of not so long ago.
I cannot commend the defence without praising Alex Song; he was brilliant.  He patrolled the area in front of the back four like his life depended on it.  Despite a few excitable leaps on top of Fellaini, he was committed to the tackle, shut down any space which opened up, and was tidy in possession.  Song is brimming with confidence it seems and he adds that strength which our team has been craving.
Hopefully we can take this into the tough Champions League tie…
Playing Celtic away in the first leg is more of an advantage that people seem to think.  Only Barca have won at Celtic Park recently and it is a really tough place to go to.  The crowd really get behind the side, especially when an English side visits, and the players must be ready for that.  Beating Everton so comfortably will be something of a practice as the atmosphere at Everton was buzzing before the game.  If we play our Football though, we always have a chance of victory.
Tony Mowbray will encourage his players to play the ‘right’ way, but will be wary of a confident Arsenal side.  If Mowbray lets us play in a similar way in which West Brom came at us, we will pick them off.  It could well be a bruising match as the Scots will love to try and frustrate the likes of Arshavin and Fabregas.
The Champions League is massively important to Arsenal’s ambitions, as well as to the finances of the club.  Reaching the group stages is part of the plans for the season as well as a required windfall.  We must be focused, professional and efficient.  We do not want to return to the Emirates with the game on a knife edge and needing a good result to qualify.  We will know what we have to do when we get back to the Emirates, but with Manchester United only 3 days away, a win in Glasgow is very important.
Wenger will probably not change too much, maybe giving Eduardo a start for either Van Persie or Bendtner.  If Diaby is fit, he may well provide Denilson with the chance of a rest.  The way I see it is that after pre-season, each player is raring to go and Wenger should not change what is not broken.  The players today looked full of energy and we should try and gain momentum within a consistent side.  If we can finish the tie in Scotland, the perfect chance to rest certain players before United will arise.  This is as important as getting a perfect start at Everton.  The first job is done; the second is only coming over the horizon…
The team will most likely be unchanged, maybe with the odd chance depending on injuries.
================Almunia===============
Sagna======Gallas=====Vermaelen====Clichy
=================Song================
==========Fabregas=====Denilson/Diaby====
Bendtner/Van Persie===============Arshavin
===========Van Persie/Edaurdo===========
Subs
Manonne, Silvestre, Eboué, Ramsey, Gibbs, Eduardo/Bendtner, Bendtner/Van Persie
Celtic’s threat will come from McGeady mainly; a talented traditional winger who looks to take players on and get crosses in.  Marc Antoine Fortuné will be a handful but I am now confident we have Vermaelen to deal with someone like this.  He did not get any credit on MOTD, but I am happy for him to go about his business efficiently and under the radar.  Arsenal fans appreciate this kind of player much more now!
I hope it is a good trip north and continues our great opening to the season.  If anyone needed any added incentive, lets beat the Scots and show why Rangers and Celtic do not have a good case to be a Premier League side!

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