Arsenal: Abou Diaby Returns, Jack Wilshere's Charity Bet and the German Messi
Don't you just love Europe's elite club football competition?
An exquisite tournament where the best teams from the continent lock horns for ultimate glory.
The clubs from Manchester have been the big bullies of the Premier League this season, but yesterday night's Champions League games proved again that other European football cultures are a different ball game compared to the teams in the Premier League that just prefer to pack the bus when they meet the so-called juggernauts of the League.
Manchester City has been phenomenal in the Premier League by dropping just two points in 12 games, but when they visited San Paolo in Italy, Edinson Cavani showed them how it was done.
A bad result against Group leaders Bayern would mean that the current FA Cup holders will be playing Thursday night football in the Europa League. Nice.
When Manchester United made it 2-1 against Benfica in Old Trafford, the guys at the commentary box predicted that it was going to be an uphill struggle for Benfica, but they were made to swallow their words almost immediately when Pablo Aimar invoked the spirit of his Valencia days to level the tie. Rio Ferdinand played a role too. Nice.
Even though it seems impossible, a bad result for Manchester United against Basel in Switzerland would mean that both clubs from Manchester would continue their rivalry in the Europa League.
Moving over to Arsenal news, Wojciech Szczesny feels that the team's defending has massively improved and he made some comments about his coordination with his back line on the pitch. He also said that his best is yet to come and that's a positive thing if you ask me.
With Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone trying hard to push on for a starting place, Szczesny has to be on his toes to put up performances that'll make the other goalies feel at home on Arsenal's bench.
However, Wilshere has taken the role of an ardent Arsenal supporter and he believes that the Arsenal-above-Spurs trend will continue despite Tottenham's good form and he went as far as placing a bet to back his claims:
"I tell you what at the end of the season if Spurs finish above Arsenal I will give £3000 to charity."
"If Arsenal finish above Spurs every Spurs fan that follows me must send me a pound each and I will give it to @Jack_Marshall_ charity!"
"Do we have a deal THFC fans!?"
His manager also backed his gamble on Arsenal finishing above Tottenham:
"He made a contest. The good thing is a charity will get some money. If we finish above Tottenham he said the Tottenham supporters have to spend £1 each, so because they have many I hope the charity gets a lot of money!
"I hope Wilshere won't pay anything! We are ready for a challenge, and hopefully the charity will get some money - but not from us!"
In all my years as an Arsenal fan, I've never seen the Gunners believe below Tottenham.
I wrote ages ago that if Arsenal ever ends up in 17th place, Tottenham will be relegated and that actually happened at some point in August. After the humiliating 8-2 loss to Manchester United, Arsenal was in 17th place but a certain Tottenham was walloping in the relegation zone even if the tables have turned for the North London clubs that are in rare form.
Wenger also urged the fans to be patient with Per Mertesacker as the defender needs time to adjust.
Mertesacker hasn't been stellar in most of his games so far but his performance against Chelsea and Tottenham were questionable. Recently, he was involved in a defensive cock-up that led to Norwich City's match opener.
The winter transfer window is around the corner and the media vultures have linked Borussia Dortmund's teenage sensation Mario Gotze to the club.
They've reported that Arsenal can get the wonder kid for £30m but Wenger has remained coy on the potential transfer. Wenger took out time to praise the bloke but he also said he's happy with his squad and Arsenal isn't after any player at the moment.
Mario Gotze came into the fray last season and he wasn't overwhelmed by being under the spotlight at such a young age. He scored six goals and laid on 15 assists last season and he recently scored Dortmund's only goal in the top-of-the-table crunch match against Bayern Munich last weekend.
Gotze will be part of a Dortmund team that will visit the Emirates Stadium tonight in a Champions League match of utmost importance to both sides.
Arsenal needs the win to seal a place in the knockout phase while Dortmund would need to get a result to give them some hope to qualify as they have a six-pointer against Marseille on match day six.
Dortmund is a side that's good with the ball and they have technically astute players that can pose a threat to Arsenal tonight. They also have a dynamic midfield with a perfect blend of youth and experience in the form of Sven Bender and Sebastien Kehl. Mario Gotze and Kevin Groβkreutz will add some wit through the flanks while Shinji Kagawa will play in the hole behind Rort Lewandowski.
In regard to team news, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal and Laurent Koscielny will be deployed as a right back following his good performance against Norwich. Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker will pair up at the heart of the defense while Andre Santos will continue on the left.
The midfield trio of Alex Song, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey will have to work really hard because Bender and Kehl are known for their strong tackles and superb work rate. Wenger has confirmed that the in-form Robin van Persie will start and he'll have the support of Gervinho and Theo Walcott.
Arsene Wenger has also confirmed the return to action of Abou Diaby and it seems as if he came earlier than scheduled. Wenger says that he's doing well in training so we might just see him make a subs appearance tonight or in the Fulham game coming up this weekend.
To wrap it all up, Arsenal's Gervinho has been shortlisted for the 2012 African Football of the Year award with other African stars like Adel Taarabt, Andre Ayew, Asamoah Gyan , Didier Drogba, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Moussa Sow, Samuel Eto'o, Seydou Keita and Yaya Toure.
As expected, no Nigerian is on the list
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
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