21 October 2014

We're doomed against Anderlecht, doomed...

There's no easy way to put this, Gooners, so I'll just go ahead and spell it out for you. We're doomed. There is simply now way that we will emerge from our trip to Anderlecht with anything but an embarrassing result. As all of the headlines of the last 24 hours have incontorvertibly explained, we'll have no choice but to play 17-year old Ryan Huddart at all eleven positions simultaneously, what with actual injuries to the likes of Ospina, Özil, Giroud, Sanogo, Koscielny, and Debuchy, plus imagined injuries to the likes of Wilshere, Walcott, Diaby, and Gnabry. Worse, we're facing off against the Chelsea of the Jupiler League: Anderlecht, like Chelsea, are undefeated in league play. By the law of transitive (or is it commutative?) properties, we have no choice but to lose ingloriously in Belgium.


Because we are facing the Chelsea of the Jupiler League, the only possible result is a demoralising loss on the order of 6-0. Maybe 2-0. Maybe Emiliano Martinez will be sent off, either because we're facing Chelsea or because it's the Champions League and getting sent off is what our keepers do.

Besides, everyone knows that, after a humiliating home-draw against Hull, we're in a downward spiral. By week's end, Arsène's 18-year long fraud will finally exposed for the empty shell-game that it has always been, Özil will once again fail to deliver anything in the final third, disappearing entirely for long stretches ("ghosting", as his legions of defenders will dub it), and we'll again dominate possession in search of the perfect goal, tiki-taka-ing around the edges of the box with little to show for it except for the occasional gasp-inducing back-heel that comes to naught.

Okay. So most of that was tongue-in-cheek, except for that last bit. On a more serious level, Anderlecht may appear on paper to be the minnow of the group, happy to have a seat at the bar, time enough for a pint before being sent home, but as our experience against Hull (and Leicester and Everton and Beşiktaş...), woe betide the squad that travels trivially. We can't afford to underestimate Anderlecht, not if we expect to advance past the group-stage. Anderlecht are winless to this point but are only two points behind us and should see this match as a chance to pick up a point, if not three. Their trip to Turkey yielded an encouraging draw; even if this was more than offset by an 0-3 loss to Dortmund, they have to feel like there is some kind of opening, especially given our own less-than-impressive form, whether that be our 0-2 loss at Dortmund or our 2-2 draw with Hull.

Happily, Anderlecht's own recent form and squad selection might be just enough to give us inspiration. Despite being undefeated in the Jupiler League to this point, their recent form fails to impress; three of their last five results come against clubs in the bottom third of the Jupiler League. and only one of those—a 0-2 win over cellar-dwelling Zulte-Waregem—shows any signs of vitality.

Peering more deeply into Anderlecht's squad, it's an odd mix of "too old" and "too young". There is an abundance of regulars who are either above the age of 28 or below the age of 23, offering a bit of an inverted Goldilocks effect. By contrast, Arsenal feature a plethora of players in the "just-right" range of 23 to 27 (Ramsey, Alexis, Wilshere, Welbeck, Gibbs). Whether this "just-right" recipe can deliver is, of course, the question. Our previous trip away from England yielded that 0-2 loss to Dortmund.

Each of us has reason to feel like our backs are up against it. However, there's just a bit more at stake for us both because of history and the current campaign. Simply put, we must win this one if we expect to secure passage through to the knockout stage. Domestically, it already appears as if the Prem is out of reach. We may not be able to reel in Chelsea or Man City in the Prem, but there's still a chance that we can outlast them in the Champions League—and that starts with a win on Wednesday.