Saturday, June 10, 2023

PSG preview: Wenger backing experienced squad in Europe

Our Champions League campaign kicks off this evening with the most difficult away game of the group. We’re facing PSG in P, and even if they have some injuries, they have plenty of talent, quality and experience.

Their start to the season has been mixed, a couple of wins, a defeat and a draw, and they have a new man in charge whose ideas might be taking some time to get across. I think we’d be very wise to look at this one as a very challenging game nonetheless, especially away from home.

Our team news consisted mostly of waiting to see how Laurent Koscielny was after the kick in the face he suffered against Southampton. Thankfully he’s a quick healer and should skipper the side this evening. After that it’s down to who the manager picks from the rest. I suspect we’ll see Olivier Giroud up front, back on home soil and perhaps out to prove a point to the boo boys who give him such stick while on international duty, while Alexis Sanchez is sure to take one of the wide positions. The choice is between Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi for the other.

Midfield will be interesting. I’d be surprised not to see Granit Xhaka start, and it’s whether or not the manager feels Santi Cazorla can start again so soon after his 90 minutes against Southampton that will probably dictate his partner. I know there are others in the team who will do just that, but maybe there concerns over Santi after so long out injured last season and we don’t want to push it. If not Mohamed Elneny might be the guy, we’ll see.

Speaking about the game, Arsene Wenger said:

It’s an important game, but I don’t think it goes beyond two good sides playing against each other. There’s no symbolism to it, no symbolic meaning to this match. We just want to pick up the three points.

And he’s backed his more mature squad to do better in Europe this season where progression beyond the round of 16 would be a step forward after six successive exits at that stage:

I think we have a better chance, yes. I was used to playing with my younger squads when you build a stadium because you don’t have the resources. Now I have a team with more experienced players. The squad is between 24 and 30, basically. That’s where you have a good combination of physical strength and experience.

It’s not the first time in recent days that he’s mentioned the age profile of his squad, and there’s plenty of European experience in there, so let’s hope they can prove him right. Last season’s campaign got off to a pretty dismal start, so it would be nice this time around to get things going much earlier. It’s not going to be easy, but with PSG perhaps finding their feet under a new manager and coming off the back of two disappointing results, the timing could be worse from our point of view.

Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, the manager says that contract extensions for Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are on the agenda. Speaking about their futures at last night’s press conference, he said:

Ozil and Sanchez, yes we are going to start contract negotiations with them.

So, he didn’t really say a lot, but now that the distractions of summer are over and done with, and now that there’s been some significant investment in the squad in key positions, it seems like a good time to sort out the future of two important players whose futures have to be secured. Attracting them to the club in the first place was good business, but you have to also show that you’re able to keep players of this stature.

What kind of message does it send if your best players decide they don’t want to stay? A familiar one obviously, we’ve been there before more than once, but circumstances also played a part in many of those departures. They left a club that struggled to keep up and remain competitive, whereas this current Arsenal should have no such issues. The money is there to improve the squad – which has been done in fairness – and the money is also there to pay these players salaries commensurate with their talent, reputation and importance.

I know there are other factors involved, ambition and the ability to challenge properly for the big trophies for example, but it would be a huge blow if either of them decided they didn’t want to put pen to paper on a new Arsenal deal. Let’s hope those tasked with making this happen are successful, and there’s some clarity to a situation that while not absolutely urgent just yet is heading inexorably in that direction.

For some extra reading this morning, Anam’s Tactics Column on the role of Francis Coquelin is well worth your time. Beyond that not a lot else happening. We will have a live blog for you later on, so if you’re stuck in work or can’t see the game, come join us for that.

Finally for today, check out this week’s Arsecast Extra looking back at the Southampton game, previewing tonight, and lots more. Listen below.


All the news throughout the day on Arseblog News, catch you later for the match.

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