Turkish danger lurks for injury-ravaged Arsenal
ARSENAL v GALATASARAY
(Tomorrow, 2.40am, SingTel mio TV Ch 111)
Arsenal saved face at the Emirates Stadium last Saturday, recovering from a goal down to draw against hated rivals Tottenham Hotspur, but they won't be able to afford another slip-up tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
After losing to Borussia Dortmund two weeks ago in Germany, the Gunners need to find their groove against Turkish giants Galatasaray.
The only problem is that their groove seems pretty well hidden.
Since beating Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season, Arsenal have won only two of their nine games in all competitions.
They suffer from a familiar set of problems, ranging from their struggles in both defending and executing set-pieces, to a lack of coherence up front which prevents them from turning their possession into goals.
Little wonder that Arsenal fans have been so visibly frustrated in recent weeks.
Added to this is an injury crisis that is starting to get out of hand.
According to the industry website physioroom.com, the Gunners have more players on the sidelines than any other Premier League club, including Manchester United.
Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey are the latest names on the list, all crocked against Tottenham, although Wilshere trained yesterday and is expected to be available to start against Galatasaray.
The midfield is a well stocked department at the Emirates, but it's hardly ideal, especially with the growing pressures at home and abroad.
The only silver lining to the cloud is that an international break is on the horizon, a chance for the wounded to recuperate for a few days.
First, however, Arsenal need to stabilise themselves in Europe and they'll hope to do that against a Galatasaray side who no longer boast Didier Drogba, but still have great support and ferocious travelling support.
The good news is that Galatasaray have never won a European tie in England, a run Arsenal will be keen to extend.
This will be the first time that the two teams have met since the Uefa Cup final in 2000, a frenetic encounter won by the Turkish side after a penalty shoot-out.
That match had been tarnished by violent clashes between supporters in central Copenhagen that saw three fans stabbed and several more injured.
London's Metropolitan Police will hope that there's no repeat performance this time, especially given the size of the capital's Turkish population.
Having had one Italian coach last year in Roberto Mancini who had little success except for winning the Turkish Cup, Galatasaray opted for another this year.
Cesare Prandelli, who resigned as coach of the Italian national team after a disappointing World Cup showing, is now at the helm.
A likeable and dignified man, he's endured a slow and less than convincing start to the season.
An opening-day victory over Bursaspor gave the supporters hope that they might wrestle the title back from hated rivals Fenerbahce, but a draw at home to Eskisehirspor and then defeat by newly-promoted Balikesirspor, put Prandelli under immediate pressure.
A draw with Anderlecht in the Champions League didn't exactly alleviate the pressure.
Galatasaray improved this weekend, picking up all three points against Sivasspor, but they are neither as convincing nor as intimidating as they have been in the past.
Arsenal once again find themselves in the position of requiring a performance as well as a result, and it's too early in the season for that sort of thing.
Somewhere beneath the poor defending, the average set-pieces and the failure to make chances, is a very good football team.
But, with their patchy form and long injury list, the team are struggling to make themselves known.
This shouldn't be a dangerous game, but these are difficult circumstances. Arsenal must be careful.
WENGER: LET'S SHOW HOW GOOD WE ARE
Arsene Wenger has challenged Arsenal to kick-start their spluttering campaign with a crucial victory in tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) Group D clash against Turkish giants Galatasaray.
Wenger's side have frustrated their manager with a series of flawed displays during a run of one win from their last six matches in all competitions and the Gunners are desperate to stop the rot when Galatasaray visit the Emirates Stadium.
Instead of kicking on since qualifying for the Champions League group stages with a 1-0 victory over another Turkish side Besiktas in late August, the Gunners have become stuck in a rut.
The disappointing sequence includes a comprehensive dismantling in a 2-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund - a scoreline that flattered the lacklustre Gunners - in their Group D opener.
And the latest misstep came against north London rivals Tottenham last Saturday as Arsenal failed to turn their territorial dominance into goals and had to rely on a late equaliser from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to salvage a 1-1 draw.
To make matters worse, Wenger's midfield was decimated by injuries at the weekend, with Wales dynamo Aaron Ramsey, captain Mikel Arteta and England international Jack Wilshere all limping off.
Ramsey and Arteta will miss Galatasaray's visit, while Wenger hopes Wilshere can recover from his ankle problem in time to feature.
Wenger revealed yesterday that Arteta (calf) and Ramsey (hamstring) are expected to miss four weeks each.
"To be generous with time, four weeks. If all goes well, three. Arteta is the same, maybe a bit quicker. It will be after the international break," he said.
Despite the injuries, Wenger knows a win over Galatasaray is essential if Arsenal are to avoid putting themselves in an awkward position in their battle to qualify for the knockout stages of Europe's elite club competition.
"The positive is that we are unbeaten (in the Premier League), but the negative is that we have missed four points from the quality of the games we have played," Wenger said.
"Somewhere we have to keep that unbeaten record and I think at some stage we will win the games instead of drawing.
"It is the second important block (of matches) now. The first massively important game for us was Besiktas after the World Cup to get through and to start well in the Premier League.
"Our start was decent and now is the second block of games that will show how strong and good we are."
Galatasaray haven't won in nine visits to English clubs, but coach Cesare Prandelli insists his team, who drew their Group D opener 1-1 against Anderlecht, have the ability to shock Arsenal.
"In this group, there are strong teams, but we have a chance against Arsenal if we keep fighting," said the former Italy national coach.
Meanwhile, Wenger confirmed yesterday Olivier Giroud will sign a new contract with Arsenal barring the formalities.
When asked about the situation with Giroud, currently out injured with an ankle problem, Wenger said: "It is done.
"We want stability and to keep the core of our team together. Giroud is an important player here.
"It is agreed. When it is completely done, we will announce it."
- Wire Services.
"It’s obviously a great honour and privilege to be in charge for such a long time at such a great club. I just want to be at the expectation level of this club and win tomorrow’s game. Our job is to win the next game."
- Arsene Wenger on his 18th anniversary at Arsenal tomorrow