Gunners have to make do with what they have

Posted by Andrew Mangan

In the absence of new faces -- and it's obvious that none will be forthcoming before Wednesday night's Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce -- Arsenal have to find a way of winning with what they have.

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The defeat to Aston Villa was obviously a blow, but made more difficult by the fact they had to play the final 25 minutes with 10 men after Laurent Koscielny was sent off.

Assuming his team doesn't fall afoul of the officials and can keep 11 men on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, Arsene Wenger has a couple of decisions to make. First, who replaces Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? The England man started on the left-hand side against Villa, but will miss this game (and many more sadly) because of a relatively serious knee injury.

Surprisingly, when a change was required at halftime last weekend, Wenger chose Santi Cazorla to come on. It seemed odd because Cazorla has barely had a couple of weeks of preseason training after arriving late because of Confederations Cup duty, not to mention he'd been on a midweek trip to Ecuador.

He looked far from ready, and it was his poor touch that led to Villa's second penalty and Koscielny's first yellow card. The more obvious choice was Lukas Podolski, who was fully fit; I'd expect the German to get the nod tomorrow. Cazorla needs time to build up his fitness, and while I'm sure we'll see him at some stage, I think it would be a risk to start him.

In the centre of midfield, the lack of options suggest that Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere will start again, even if Wenger will be worried about how the latter will react to playing the full 90 minutes against Villa. What he has to ensure is that there's better shape to his team.

Without Mikel Arteta anchoring the midfield, there's space that the opposition can exploit. Both Wilshere and Ramsey are energetic tacklers. They like to win the ball as high up the pitch as possible. Which is great when you win it, but when you don't, it can cause problems, as we saw when Gabriel Agbonlahor went charging through to win Villa's first penalty.

There has to be a bit more discipline to their partnership. Ideally it's something that will emerge over time, but Arsenal don't have that. One of them has to be instructed to sit deep at all times. They can even take turns, but the communication between them is crucial to ensure that they both don't get caught out of position.

There's been good news on the injury front, too. After worries about Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs, all have traveled to Turkey and should be OK to take part. Without them, it would have been a much more difficult task, so hopefully that's something they can take heart from.

It's also worth remembering that Arsenal did have chances in the Villa game. Rosicky had the opportunity to put Arsenal ahead, and also to equalise, so it's not as if they were completely toothless -- even with 10 men.

Arsenal need to rewind, remember how they played in their final preseason game against Man City, and look to impose themselves on proceedings as they did then. It won't be easy. They aren't in a good place right now, but they've got plenty of experience at overcoming these kinds of challenges, and that should stand to help them tomorrow evening.


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