By 1970’s Gooner
Arsenal have won all four of their matches against Sparta, each of which has come in the Champions League group stage.
Two seasons ago, a half-fit Henry marked his return from a six-week absence through injury to supply Arsenal’s goals in a 2-0 win in the group stage match in Prague, breaking Ian Wright’s club scoring record in the process.
The striking aspect of that game was the conservative approach adopted by Wenger who appeared to give a little bit too much respect to the opponents than was merited.
The system adopted was a rather timid 4 5 1 with the lone striker more often than not left isolated. It wasn’t until Henry was unleashed from the bench that the whole team was liberated.
Arsenal won their home fixture 3-0 with goals from Henry and two from RVP.
How Arsenal will play
I can see Wenger adopting a conservative approach again as this has served him well in the head to head counters with Sparta Prague. In addition this is an away tie and there is always the home game to come at, hopefully, fortress Emirates where things could be put right if need be.
There is also the need to accustom the players in treating this first European game in the manner that will be followed in the away games of the Champions League competition proper.
So a 4 5 1 formation is likely to be adopted
Judging by Hleb’s performance and crucial goal he scored against Fulham he will again play the withdrawn role behind RVP. Only this time he will be instructed to stick to that and not venture too much back into midfield crowding out playmaker Fabregas.
Rosicky and Eboue are likely to be trusted on the wings again although the latter was rather subdued against Fulham. However his defensive background will come in handy if Arsenal have to defend a lead late on in the game.
Diaby and Denilson have not travelled due to ankle problems. The players to travel include the same 16 which were picked to face Fulham, plus full backs Justin Hoyte and Armand Traore. The players on the bench against Fulham were Almunia, Senderos, Song, Walcott and Bendtner.
It is a pity that Diaby in particular could not participate as it is this type of players that have the qualities needed to protect the defence in those difficult European or indeed Premiership away games.
Nevertheless, according to our resident season ticket holder at the Emirates, Flamini put in a very strong performance against Fulham and the same will be required of him again.
Bendtner will probably be on the bench and ready to come on late in the game if need be. I can see him scoring if he comes on. He nearly did against Fulham.
I don’t see many goals in this game as both teams will not want to risk too much lest they concede; especially the home team.
Arsenal will also be thinking about the difficult away encounter with Blackburn on Sunday, so if they go a goal up they will probably not break leather to add to it.
Away win. 1 - 0
Best odds at time of writing this post:
Arsenal win : 5/6 Bet 365
Draw : 5/2 Paddy Power
Sparta win : 19/5 Expect.com
Arsenal win 1-0 : 11/2 Bet 365, Better, Betdirect, Sporting Odds, Blue Square
Bendtner to score the first or last goal: 7/1 Skybet, Extra bet, Stan James
Hleb to score first goal : 14/1 VC Bet
Hleb to score last goal : 12/1 Bet Fred, Stan James
Part I: Sparta’s manager fears Rosicky