Arsenal fell out of first place in Group B after a 2-0 loss to Schalke in their most recent Champions League fixture, and now the Gunners will need their key players to step up in order to defeat the German side on Tuesday.
In the first battle between these two teams, Schalke’s Dutch duo of attackers broke through the Arsenal defense late in the game after putting constant pressure on the Gunners back-line. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored in the 76th minute, and Ibrahim Afellay doubled the lead 10 minutes later.
Arsene Wenger’s side was outplayed at home, and it will now need to vastly improve its form while playing in Germany.
Here are the players who must turn in quality performances for the Gunners to beat Schalke.
Thomas Vermaelen, Centre-Back
The Arsenal defense has been out of sorts in several matches this season, and the Gunners’ skipper must pull the back-line together.
He was unable to mark Huntelaar on his goal in the Champions League fixture two weeks ago and also made a key mistake in the team’s English Premier League showdown with Manchester United. Vermaelen flubbed a chance to clear the ball, and his ex-teammate Robin van Persie punished his error by putting United up 1-0 in just the third minute.
Now, Vermaelen must put all the poor performances in the past and play like the world-class centre-half that he is.
With an in-form Vermaelen, the Gunners will be able to neutralize Huntelaar and control the match against Schalke.
Santi Cazorla, Central Midfielder
Vermaelen is the key to Arsenal’s defense, and Santi Cazorla is the most important player in its attack.
The crafty Spanish midfielder is a wonderfully intelligent player who is capable of breaking down Schalke’s defense as both a scorer and a distributor. His finishing talents were on display against United as he curled a shot into the far corner of the net in stoppage time.
While that goal proved to be meaningless, Cazorla will have a chance to score in a situation with major consequences in Tuesday’s match. He will need to be the spark going forward for the Gunners.
If Arsenal cracks the Germans’ defense this time around, Cazorla will be heavily involved.
Olivier Giroud, Striker
Cazorla can be a dangerous scorer, but he is vastly more effective when he has an in-form striker to target with his clever passes. Olivier Giroud has not been that player often in this current campaign.
But the Frenchman has the talent to be a dangerous poacher and to spearhead Arsenal’s attack. He must put constant pressure on Schalk’s centre-backs in this match.
With Giroud posing a constant danger in this game, Cazorla will be able to find space in front of the Schalke back-line, and the Arsenal offense will be able to find the back of the net.
A top-class performance from Giroud will be key for the Gunners as they try to get their Champions League campaign on the right track.