Looking ahead to Schalke
It’s been three days since the world ended – or three days since Arsenal lost a game, it’s hard to tell sometimes – and luckily the dust has somewhat settled as we get ready to take on Schalke at the start of an interesting run of games. Fortunately, a majority of those surrounding the Schalke fixtures are in London, so we aren’t going to be facing a heavy continental hangover. Porto have generally been our whipping boys following a loss but we might have to wait until after Schalke, who are surely fired up after beating Dortmund in the Revierderby on the weekend, to get that out of our system. It may have been a while since we’ve lost to foreign opposition at home, but Schalke will be a challenge as they’ve been consistently able to keep high up the table in what, until two seasons ago, has been one of the most unpredictable leagues in the world.
We have two players who have played against Schalke regularly and know exactly where their dangers lie. They are missing some of their young core through injury and chicken pox. But last season’s Golden Boot winner, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, doesn’t need many chances to score and with Ibrahim Afellay and Lewis Holtby behind him, those chances will come.
With Theo Walcott looking likely to play as is Jack Wilshere, Arsenal has a lot more to offer than it did on the weekend when the duo are fit. Walcott, whose contract Wenger is keen to renew, should allow us to get behind Schalke’s fullbacks who like to play high up the pitch, something which we severely lacked against Norwich.
There’s been a ridiculous uproar since Saturday which I should quickly address in absence of a proper recap following the game. There was a lack of effort, no doubt, but we’ve seen this from Arsenal a lot when playing lesser opposition. It’s not necessarily complacency but it’s just the mentality that has been instilled into these players, that no matter what the score, there needs to be a calm, methodic approach to goal. It’s definitely led to a lot of last minute chances over the last few seasons, which we are quick to forget. Though it’s worrying sometimes not to see any sort of urgency as you would with most other teams and no one seemed willing to take over the reigns against Norwich.
The match against Schalke is probably the biggest test we could’ve asked for following such a morale-killing defeat but it looks like the players are up for the challenge with most of them aware of what they need to put into it. And after just about getting away with the last two group stage matches, it’ll be vital that they are.