Arsenal: Major Questions Facing Team Ahead of Clash with Montpellier
Ahead of their opening UEFA Champions League clash against reigning Ligue 1 holders Montpellier, Arsenal have more than a few questions to answer. Most notably, the Gunners have issues at goalkeeper and in midfield.
Perhaps the most intriguing issue is whether or not a misfiring striker can finally break his scoring duck. Here are the major questions facing the Gunners as they prepare for Montpellier:
Can Vito Mannone Again Shine in Wojciech Szczesny's Absence?
Sky Sports has reported that Italian stopper Vito Mannone will once again deputise for Wojciech Szczesny. According to the report Szczesny is sidelined with an ankle injury.
He handled the inevitable aerial bombardment from Stoke and made some sensible decisions when put under pressure by Liverpool. In all honesty, Mannone is applying plenty of pressure to Szczesny, who can't really risk more time out of the team after some recent mistakes.
Mannone's last Champions League outing saw him guilty of his own errors away to Olympiacos. However, if he can produce another solid performance, more questions will be raised about Szczesny's status as Arsenal's starting goalkeeper.
Should Arsene Wenger Risk Abou Diaby, or Give a Youngster a Start?
According to Arsenal.com, Abou Diaby is back in the squad, but if he is not fully fit to start, Arsene Wenger will have to choose his replacement carefully. Francis Coquelin was competent but nothing more against Southampton.
The young Frenchman does have the defensive qualities Arsenal may need for an away fixture in Europe's premier competition. However, perhaps Aaron Ramsey could use this game to showcase his quality in forward areas.
He showed some classy touches against Southampton and certainly offers more of a scoring threat than Coquelin. Given how well Mikel Arteta has handled defensive duties for Arsenal's midfield, a more forward-thinking, box-to-box player would provide Arsenal with true balance.
Of course, Wenger's toughest call might be whether or not to risk Diaby from the beginning, with the clash against Manchester City looming large. It would be nice to see Diaby play some part, if only to get match sharp ahead of the game against the Citizens.
Can Olivier Giroud Finally Find the Net for Arsenal?
Olivier Giroud's rough start to his Arsenal career surely has to come to an end at some point. Perhaps returning to his old stomping ground to take on his former teammates will provide the motivation Giroud needs to finally find the back of the net for the Gunners.
Clumsy finishing has already earned the powerful target man his share of detractors. While this author still believes Giroud offers a vital outlet, it is only natural to be concerned about a striker with no goals to his credit.
That concern clearly hasn't been lost on Wenger, who acknowledged that tension is growing for Giroud to produce, according to a report from Sky Sports. Yet the harsh reality is that the intensity surrounding Giroud will only increase the longer his problems in front of goal continue.
Maybe being free from the uncompromising glare of the English Premier League will provide the perfect tonic for the misfiring attacker.
Personnel changes and struggling new arrivals aside, Arsenal have the right to feel optimistic about their chances of earning a key early win in the Champions League. The pace and flair of their attacking play has returned and the defense is growing in confidence, having only been breached once in four games.
The spotlight will be firmly on Giroud during his return home, and he could well prove the decisive factor. If he continues to flounder, Wenger might be best served relying on the pace that exemplified the Gunners' six-goal assault against Southampton.
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