Partizan is quite literally the most important game of the season so far

It seems strange to say it but tomorrow night’s final group stage game against Partizan Belgrade is the biggest game of our season so far.

Lose it and we are most likely on our way out at this stage for the first time in Arsene Wenger’s reign. Even a draw might not be enough if Braga beat Shakhtar, a distinct possibility given the prize on offer for the Portuguese side and the fact that the Ukrainians have already qualified.

On the flip-side a win will see us comfortably through and given our home advantage and Belgrade’s frankly woeful Champions League performance — no points and one goal in five games is one of the poorest performances ever — there should really only be one outcome. But football is a funny game and with the potential for failure so high, the impact on our team could potentially be catastrophic.

Djourou's back!

My personal opinion is that we will come through this challenge well. The fact that our next game against Manchester United is not until Monday works in our favour and essentially allows Arsene Wenger to play a full-strength team against Belgrade. Anything less than that, given the potential impact of failure on the motivation of the team, would be extremely foolish.

Assuming that Wenger goes for the jugular and accounting for Laurent Koscielny’s recently-incurred concussion, our back five will undoubtedly be comprised of Lukasz Fabianski, Bacary Sagna, Sebastien Squillaci, Johan Djourou and Gael Clichy. Alex Song, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky are likely to play in the middle while the front three of Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh and the orgasmic Samir Nasri is all but set in stone.

Personally I am delighted with the fact that Djourou will be given an extended run in the side alongside Squillaci if not the circumstances that have forced it. The word from Wenger is that both Koscielny and Vermaelen will be out of the team until the New Year which leaves us extremely light at the back, perhaps relying on Song to do some filling in against some smaller sides. Hopefully his new-found attacking instincts, endorsed by the manager, do not come back to haunt him.

There will be some nervous times tomorrow night, particularly if Partizan manage to keep their clean sheet in tact for the opening twenty or thirty minutes, but I expect our team to pass this test with flying colours. Should we nab and early goal or two I think we will relax hugely and the floodgates could open, paving the way for a fairly comfortable night of football and the ultimate preparation for a super-fresh United on Monday.

Before I go today you might be interested to know that I was featured on the tremendous A Football Report podcast for the week, talking about such things as Nasri’s awesomeness (obviously), Squillaci and Djourou, the need to hang on to Cesc Fabregas and some World Cup stuff as well. Check it out here if you’re interested in hearing my voice.

Finally I just want to remind everyone that today is the last day that you can get shirts from The AFCB Shop for the bargain Christmas price of £12.50. I’ll be putting things back to normal at midnight UK time so get your orders in quick smart or risk feeling very disappointed in the morning! Just click the link below.


Have your say on Arsenal v Partizan Belgrade by leaving a comment.



  1. Yes, they do. An unbelievable turnaround. A shame, really, but on a higher level it’s great that we will have all three central defenders available for December. I also think Djourou’s minor tweak will mean he starts against United.

  2. Watching MOTD the other day and they were comparing Birminghams Centre Halfs to Arsenal’s, not in great detail but… A good point was made Birminghams defenders are under the kosh for the games they play in near enough the whole game so the players are fully focused the whole time. We spend a lot of games attacking so our defenders lose concentration because our two centre backs at the back are spectating our attackers from the back and when the opposition goes long or counter they are not focused and collected again. What we need is Veremalen to come back in and crack the whip. Squilacci, Koscienly and Djourou watching them do you ever see them shouting? I dont… There is no leadership on our back line. We need a defender in Veremalen absence to be passionate and communicate to keep our defenders on there toes. I always see Rio, Terry, Samba, Hangeland, Carragher and others shouting/screaming at there back line. What we need are leaders like them.

  3. PS: With Vermaelen and Koscileny out until after Xmas, we are left with Djourou and one half of The Chuckle Bros, plus Song if required. We have games during this period against Mancs, Stoke, Chelsea, Wigan, B’ham, Man City. We will be bombarded in the air by Stoke, we haven’t beaten The Mancs or Chelsea in the PL for some time, Wigan beat us last year, B’ham away is tough for anyone and Man City are getting it together. Do people still think our squad is strong enough for the battle ahead?

  4. I beg to disagree with the title of this blog. Every league game is more important to me than this game.

  5. @ Anon – Really? If we blow this game we’re out of the Champions League. I can’t imagine anything worse to happen to this team psychologically than that.

  6. @ rilesh – The good news is that Koscielny is now available. Remarkably it is Djourou who is now out, a slight thigh injury meaning he won’t be risked by Wenger. I suggest he will start against Manchester United though.

  7. @annon you muppet ofcourse this is our biggest game – WE Have to WIN. Or we are out and i agree with Andy the psychological impact would be collosal. Seriously speaking i think wenger should just throw dice and play JET insteat of chamakh and after 20 mins if its stil 0-0 then take of 3 defenders and bring on strikers

  8. Did we not drop out at the group stage under Wenger in 2000 when we went on to play Galatasary in the eufa cup final?

  9. @ Goober – I’m not sure. I think you’re right actually, might have mixed qualification for the Champions League with first-stage qualification.

  10. @ Rilesh – Whoa. I’m glad you’re not in charge of tactics in that case… I know (hope) you’re kidding though. =)

    On Djourou, I hope he starts ahead of Koscielny at least for a while now – once he’s back from his ‘little tweak’ – to give him some game time and to build an understanding with Squillaci. He’ll be indispensable against Stoke as well.

  11. And about Citeh – W D D W D W isn’t really what I’d call ‘getting it together’ is it? 12 out of 18 points is hardly title winning form. We know that they won’t lose many, because they play with 7 defenders. But how many will they win?

    About squad strength in depth… we’ll soon know, won’t we?

  12. its interesting how people keep comparing kos to JD, what about Squillachi? what makes him better than the other two, is his age? i have seen comments on the blogs about him being calm……..i dont think thats enough, infact he is just as calm as kos & JD. I think Kos is better than JD & Squillachi but i have to admit than JD keeps improving every game.
    The only thing i like about him is that he is still 10x better than Sylvester

  13. * i meant :The only thing i like about him (SQUILLACHI) is that he is still 10x better than Sylvester

  14. I don’t see how this is the most important game for Arsenal, I would think the rest of the premier league games would be. Best of luck to all the English sides in the CL.

  15. Nice safe 2-0 win pls with Wenger able to sub off Nasri as early as possible to keep him fresh for the new most important game of the season after this! Am assuming that will be Monday night UK time so Tuesday morning here in the arse end of the world?

  16. Today it can be a 4-0 win in favour of us. we simply need to start with a good team. Marouane Chamakh must be given a starting jersey.

  17. Best of luck tonight to the lads , it is a huge game , we have been in a much more difficult group than spurs and lets hope the partizan players do not split us open like Fulham did, we now look set to play the big teams , hope we dont get spurs as they look too good for us at the moment over 2 legs…ha ha

    Come on you spurs , been in the champ league 5 minutes and already breaking all the records !
    ha ha…er YID ARMY !

  18. again an excellent goal from Nasri . . . and . . Theo, thanks God, I don’t like this pressure…………… under pressure…………. 😉

  19. Arsenal’s defence as usual was all over the place today; there seems to be no tactical pre-planning at all, and even worse no mid-game tactical changes; we fear every attack even by the most ridiculous teams, as we’ve seen in the Barclays Premiership League. As Jordan said every team looks good against Arsenal – seems that we have a tremendouns inferiority complex in the back four. I wouldn’t have said this a few months ago, but Fabianski is proving our saviour with some very good saves. When is Vermeulen back – he is sadly missed, and now with Sagna being sent off and missing a few games, I shudder to think who our next opponent in the CL will be. Unless AV can do something about the weak defence, the next round will see us out.

  20. We won the game but in reality we were not the usual arseanal playing at tempo speed and precision. Some thing has fgone wrong from last season and this explains why we had to struggle qualifying in the last game.This game could have gone either way considering how Partizan played. I wonder why this hope less bunch of defenders just move up the pitch and no one stays behind to watch. How do you defend from infront your marker. We are always caught flat footed and in the end a brilliant goal against us .We shall be slaughtered at Old trafford if we use the same stupid style of play. I think people have noticed what Chamak is. Is he a striker or a mid fielder. This guy is never alert in the box and doesnt show the resilience to attack. He is costing the team and other players like Vela and JET. I prefer Bendtner to begin a game than Chamak. He simply lacks the urgency and desire and i didnt see any in put from him last night.Wenger fears benching the guy and the truth is that he is not good enough to be a starter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.