Arsenal and Schalke meet at the Emirates tonight in what is an important game in Group B of the Champions League. Arsenal lead the group having won both of their games in the group so far and therefore have six points out of a possible six. The German side won their opening game away to Olympiakos 2-1, but dropped points at home to French champions Montpellier in their next game, after conceding a last minute equaliser.
Arsenal have been boosted by the return of Laurent Koscielny from a back injury that kept him out of Saturday’s defeat at Norwich. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss out after picking up an injury at Carrow Road and Theo Walcott still isn’t match fit after picking up an injury in England’s game against San Marino during the international break.
Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna and Emmanuel Frimpong all continued their recoveries from long-term injuries in the under-21′s 2-1 win against Everton by all getting a full 90 minutes under their belt. With that game being played on Monday, Arsene Wenger believes that the Schalke game is too important and too soon to risk bringing back long term absentees.
Schalke are fresh off of a 2-1 win over German champions and local rivals Borussia Dortmund this past weekend, a game that was marred by crowd violence. They have a few injury concerns going into the game though. Julian Draxler is a big doubt as he has a wrist injury and Kyriakos Papadopoulos has been out for two weeks with chicken pox and therefore he may not play due to a lack of match fitness.
The Germans haven’t won in England in five attempts, but this Schalke side are young and hungry for success. As mentioned earlier, the beat Borussia Dortmund at the weekend, and you saw what kind of trouble Dortmund gave the English champions Man City in their recent Champions League clash, so that suggests that Schalke are certainly no pushovers.
Arsenal and Schalke met in the Champions League groups back in the 2001/02 campaign. The Gunners won 3-2 at Highbury with a goal from Freddie Ljungberg as well as two from Thierry Henry enough to see off the Germans in England. However, the Gunners fell to a 3-1 defeat in Germany, with Arsene Wenger playing a second string side, Arsenal played much of the game with 10 men after Oleg Luzhny’s dismissal with just over a quarter of an hour played. Arsenal at that time had a great side, but an awful away record in the Champions League. It was as if they suffered a homesickness in their early Champions League years, where even getting a goal on the road was impressive. Arsenal did get a consolation goal in the away game against Schalke, with Sylvain Wiltord scoring with 20 minutes remaining to make the scoreline a little less embarrassing for the Gunners.
An interesting statistic is that both managers from the two games in 2001/02 are still at the club today. Arsene Wenger hasn’t left his post and Huub Stevens left Schalke in 2002 but returned to the club in 2011 after managing Hertha Berlin, FC Cologne, Roda JC, Hamburg, PSV and Red Bull Salzburg before returning to Schalke.
Two players to look out for will be Ibrahim Afellay, on loan from Barcelona and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who lives up to his name and is pure class. Would have loved to have seen Arsenal sign him back in his Ajax days, I have always admired his talents. Up until the end of last season, Schalke had Raul on their books and even at 35, he is still a fine player. Thankfully he took the money and moved to Qatari club Al Sadd. I have highlighted two players, but Schalke have a lot of talent in their squad, so I think this will be a tough game. I’m looking for a strong response from the Gunners in this game after they all let us down at Norwich on Saturday.