Arsenal v Shakhtar Preview: Eduardo, Fabregas returns to light up a romantic evening

Arsenal play host to Eduardo and his new buddies from Shakhtar Donetsk tonight in a game that Arsene Wenger believes will “give us an opportunity to basically think we have qualified” if three points are secured.

A quick glance at the table shows he’s probably right: both Arsenal and Shakhtar sit on six points with the other two group opponents Partizan Belgrade and Braga currently on zero. But another conclusion is also very possible: a failure to beat Shaktar tonight could lead to the possibility of the Ukrainians, who are particularly strong at home, finishing above us in the group.

The interest factor in this contest comes through the brusque return of Eduardo to North London. Forced to leave Arsenal to seek playing time after a prolonged period of rehabilitation and the signing of Marouane Chamakh, the Brazilian-born Croatian is sure to receive a fantastic reception from the crowd at Emirates Stadium. It is a sentiment he will reciprocate in his own way, with Eduardo admitting he is unlikely to celebrate if he happens to score tonight.

Fabregas is back to full fitness

Eduardo’s return will not be the only important one with Cesc Fabregas finally ready to take is place in the squad, if not the starting team. Eduardo admitted in an interview with the terrific Jonathan Wilson from The Guardian that he hopes to swap shirts with Fabregas at the conclusion of tonight’s game: every Arsenal supporter will hope he can.

While Fabregas has been declared as “fully fit” by Arsene Wenger, several other players are not so lucky. Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Vermaelen, Robin van Persie and Manuel Almunia have all been ruled out alongside Bacary Sagna and long-term casualty Aaron Ramsey. In more positive news Theo Walcott is a chance to start despite failing to complete mid-week training with a banged-up toe.

The various injuries will not prevent the manager putting out a strong team against Shakhtar, although as against Birmingham on Saturday, the defence does have a makeshift quality about it. Lukasz Fabianski will look to continue his good form on in goals behind what is likely to be the same back four from the weekend: Emmanuel Eboue, Sebastien Squillaci, Johan Djourou and Gael Clichy.

Further forward Alex Song and Jack Wilshere are the two nailed-on starters in the middle with Fabregas, Abou Diaby and Denilson all possibilities to provide support. Up front Nicklas Bendtner’s lack of match fitness means Marouane Chamakh will get the nod again in the centre of the park. I have a feeling Wenger may use this opportunity to give Andrey Arshavin a rest before the trip to Manchester City, with Tomas Rosicky and Samir Nasri likely to provide attacking support for the Moroccan.

For the reasons stated earlier in the post, I believe it is important that we secure three points at home to Shakhtar tonight. The return of Eduardo will make things a little bit tricky – will our defenders tackle him with the same force that they will tackle some of the other players? – but I always fancy us to do the business at home in the Champions League. To their credit Shakhtar are a side that like to play good football – it was one of the reason’s Eduardo went there – so tonight could be a great spectacle for the footballing romantics, myself included.

In other non-Shakhtar related news over the past day or so Vito Mannone has secured a loan move to Hull City until January. It is a good move for a player that is clearly fourth-choice at the club and with Fabianski playing well, Wojciech Szczesny on the bench and Almunia still “injured”, our goalkeeping dilemma appears to have been solved for the time being. I wish Mannone all the best at his time with Hull.


Have your say on tonight’s game against Shakhtar Donetsk by leaving a comment.



  1. It’s good to see that Eduardo is fit to play against Arsenal this evening. He’s a player that I admire as much for his attitude as his skill.

    Let’s hope that he can rebuild his career after the appalling injury inflicted on him by Birmingham’s Martin Taylor.

  2. @ John – I’m happy to see he’ll start, but I won’t be happy if he scores. He’s still got time to rebuild his career and things have been going well for him since he went to the Ukraine.

  3. ‘The return of Eduardo will make things a little bit tricky – will our defenders tackle him with the same force that they will tackle some of the other players?’

    Let’s hope Eduardo doesn’t get injured by any clumsy tackles. That would be a cruel irony the press would just love to get their teeth stuck into.

  4. If we score early & take the wind out of thier sails – expect the floodgates2open 😉

  5. I hope our Gunners will get a good win tonight. play the futbol that we love to see, and have a good finish to this game. we need our players to boost there confidence for Man.Shitty. and I hope no injuries will come out of this game. I think Wilshere should start, since he will not be playing for three games. and have Fabregas come in as a sub later, so we dont risk loosing him for the big test on sunday.

  6. Eddy,this is your have our qaulity and’re a good lad.we wish you the best…,then this is a game we should and must on

  7. I haven’t read all yet, I have to go to bed now, but short: it was a party, no criticism 😉
    and Edus goal was the best 😎 good luck to him

  8. What an awesome game…..the football freely flowed and our dominance prevailed yet again….two records broken tonight what with that being 14 goals scored in the first 3 games and Chamakh scoring in 6 consecutive CL games…However I know that the main headlines will be about a spoiled, scouse child that has decided paying for sex whilst his wife was pregnant wasn’t enough to keep him on the front and back pages of the british press….Rooney is not my story of the week….A fantastic battle of true british determination and guts by Blackpool against Man City and a standing ovation for an ex-Arsenal player that went through hell and still had the peice of mind to appease the home crowd from a goal that many would be turning cartwheels after scoring, A captain that was almost prized away showing his compasion for his mothers birthday after slotting a perfect penalty away….this is true football…I love you fab, Eu te amo Edu, I love you Arsenal, I love you Emirates crowd, I love you Champions League….most of all games, weeks, players like these make me realise why I love you Football!!

  9. I am pissed at ESPN. Checked their guide last night and they said they were showing one of the other games so didn’t bother to set the alarm. Got up and turned on the box to see the Arse was the game being televised.

    Great result but let’s be honest the opposition in this group have all rolled over. Man City will be a much harder proposition, but great to see Fabregas back. Be interesting to see who plays Sunday, will Walcott get a start? Should be a cracker!

  10. I really enjoyed watching Wilshere alongside Cesc, there’s going to be some great stuff from the pair of them. Fab had another solid performance, so for me he should be the number one for the immediate future.

    Awesome to see Theo back, and I’m glad Rosicky got the start ahead of Arshavin. He’s been looking rather mild the past few matches.

    Party On!

  11. Thoughts on the game: Wilshere was very good once again, if he carries on like this I will not be so worried when Cesc leaves.

    Our defence as IHH says, head up rather than away. That needs to be worked on in training.

    We played quite deep first half, and credit must go to their number 22 the Armenian Mkhitaryan, who covered ground and made nice forward runs.

    One we pushed up in the second half it forced Shakhtar onto the back foot.

    Cesc looked very bit like a man who was having first game back after injury, his passing was sloppy and his timing off.

    Theo looked brighter than expected after injury, interesting to see him play central even only if as sub, shows we do have beginnings of a “Plan B” in the locker.

  12. The team will be fired up for man shity and I hope we can show all those commentators that we are in the title race and that we must be taken seriously.

    I’m sure people will say oh but Arsenal have an easy group,… but Shaktar are UEFA cup champion in 2009 so they are no push overs. Braga and partizan are weak, just as zilina for Chelsea, the turks for Man U and the spuds for Inter, but Shaktar have proven over the years that they are a strong team so this is a great result.

    As for Eduardo’s reception, I was telling my colleagues this morning, that is one of the reason Arsenal is so special, no other club could be so respectful of ex-players to give them standing ovation and cheer when they score! no wonder ex players loves the club that much! Henry, Pires, Viera, Eduardo, Toure all received great cheer when they came back! I do hope Cashley, Shittybayor and Flamoney will see that! I do hope we will see ade’s face sitting on the bench or in the stands when we score against Man city!

    A few old boys of late. Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires have all returned as virtual Freemen of the Borough of Islington in recent years. Last night it was the turn of Eduardo. He never enjoyed anything like their success at the club but nonetheless received a huge ovation from a crowd who knew the win was in the bag.

    We loved Eduardo, still do. We loved him for his goals, his silky skills and his obvious humility.

    And we loved him because he brought out and brings out the tribal in us as Gooners. He brings out the idea of it being us against the world at times. Only at Arsenal can we imagine a guy who was nearly booted out the game for good ending up the victim of a legal witch hunt that had never applied to anyone but him beforehand and has never applied since. For weeks, his image peppered TV bulletins and newspaper pages as the first guy ever to be banned for diving.

    Amazing to think that in the year since that incident, not a single other player has been charged with that offence. Shameful, shameful, shameful UEFA.

    Is that Arsene Wenger doesn’t sell 27 year-olds without a good reason and despite the brilliant way he took his goal last night, the cretins who see his kind of injury as just one of those things need reminding that it didn’t end the day he made his return in the red and white. Ultimately, it cost him his job at Arsenal and while he continues to enjoy a living that most people could only dream of, it is still well worth noting.

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