Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Let's be honest, we should beat Braga

In a rare moment of me saying something interesting on Twitter, I dredged up the statistic that Arsenal haven't lost at home to a foreign team since 2003. And a dark day that was. 40-odd quid to stand on the North Bank and watch Arsenal get spanked by Inter Milan.

But since then, part of the reason we are always a danger in the Champions League is that we are exceptionally hard to beat at home. Even a Barca side playing at their very best only managed a 2-2 draw.

Though our group is relatively easy, our serene progression from the group stage in recent years has always revolved around winning the home games. Trips to Belgrade and Donetsk probably sound harder than they are but it's practically impossible to get knocked out if we take nine points from the three home games.

And, as Orbinho pointed out right after the draw, Arsenal have never won away in Serbia, Ukraine or Portugal. Frankly, I'd be surprised if that didn't change in the next few months but considering our past form, victory tonight is essential.

I broadly agree with Gunnerblog and Arseblog about the team which will play. Clichy and Sagna will presumably come back in, with Koscielny and Squillaci in the centre.

Seeing as Diaby was subbed on for Wilshere on Saturday, I feel that considering Nasri's recent injury, he's unlikely to start him, maybe saving him for Sunderland. I'd like to see Denilson start, because he was very good on Saturday (and I'm determined to see him come good) but it may well be Wilshere.

To be honest, I don't know a lot about Braga as I'm no great afficionado of Portugese football. But I spoke to my brother who lived in Portugal for a while and still follows the game there.

He said:

"I always found Braga a little annoying - sort of like Spurs in that they made my skin crawl - and they tend to get involved in stupid incidents. Their holding midfield player was banned for three months in March for getting involved in a fight. It's a team packed full of Brazilians, so they're always somewhat unpredictable, somewhat moody. But they try and push their holding midfielders forward [when they're attacking] and that will leave space for Arsenal to exploit."

There's always an issue that Almunia could be beaten from distance but frankly, if nothing else, I'd expect Arsenal to outscore them. And, if it doesn't go well, we can still laugh at how Spurs managed to throw away a two-goal-lead once again.

I'll try an Audioboo from the ground but I can't make any promises.

Keep the faith,

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