Mikel Arteta will want Champions League progression as group winners as Arsenal will target a win and revenge over RC Lens in North London.
Arsenal are getting themselves in strong positions in the most important competitions, as Mikel Arteta aims to reign supreme in their Champions League group when they take on RC Lens this week. In what was an eventful weekend for the Gunners, who finished at the top of the Premier League standings, their manager does not wish to complicate things in Europe.
Mathematically, both RC Lens and PSV Eindhoven could still trump the Gunners. But that would need a monumental downfall from Arteta’s men at this stage. Arsenal are on the brink of qualification to the next round, and a point will take them there. But a win will guarantee them the status of group winners.
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Arsenal had suffered a few stumbles before the international break but come into this fixture high on confidence after their weekend endeavours. A late Kai Havertz goal ensured the Gunners finished on top of the Premier League standings after Gameweek 13. They will now aim for another midweek win to seal the Champions League group.
While Arsenal have a cushion to ease their pressure, RC Lens come to the Emirates knowing they need a victory to progress. Franck Haise will hope his team shows the character they displayed when the Gunners came to France, with Lens winning that reverse fixture to go top of the group.
Having gone unbeaten in their first three Champions League games, Lens went from first to third in no time courtesy of their loss to PSV during the previous matchday. They are currently level on points with their Dutch counterparts but below on direct head-to-head record in this group stage.
Since that defeat, Lens have won their next two Ligue 1 games, with a comfortable 3-0 win over Clermont Foot at the weekend. Yet, they will have to dig deep to find a way in North London, especially given this is a must-win encounter. A win here, and one for PSV in the other game, could open up this group, although a defeat in the same scenario would make them favourites to play the Europa League in 2024.
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Mikel Arteta has no fresh injury troubles from the weekend’s action but will surely have some selection headaches for this clash. More importantly, the manager will look to manage the fitness of some of his stars ahead of a crunch period.
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— Arsenal (@Arsenal) November 28, 2023
David Raya and Ben White should return to the lineup for this midweek clash, but Arteta will likely keep hold of the in-form Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back. Takehiro Tomiyasu will drop down to the bench and get some rest.
Arteta could also bring Jorginho in his midfield to start alongside Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard. Saturday’s match-winner, Kai Havertz, might continue from the bench and get a run in as a substitute at some stage.
The big concern for Arteta will come in the form of managing the fitness of Gabriel Jesus. The Arsenal No.9 made a quicker-than-expected recovery from a hamstring problem and has since started two games quickly. Arteta does have options in Leandro Trossard and Eddie Nketiah and may end up selecting the former in place of the Brazilian from the start.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Raya; Ben White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Odegaard, Jorginho, Rice; Saka, Trossard, Martinelli
Franck Haise does have a few injury concerns, with right wing-back Deiver Machado out with an abductor problem, while Jimmy Cabot and Wuilker Farinez are long-term absentees with ACL injuries. Lens will also come here without Morgan Guilavogui, who was sent off late against PSV in the last game.
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— Racing Club de Lens (@RCLens) November 28, 2023
Fortunately for the French outfit, the said player also picked up a back injury at the weekend, which would have made him unavailable for the Arsenal clash anyway. On the positive side, defender Kevin Danso is available again and expected to stay fit for the game on Wednesday.
He could come straight into the backline in the centre of the back three, with Jonathan Gradit and Facundo Medina on either side. On the right wing, Ruben Aguilar, who has deputised for Machado, will continue to keep his place, while Przemyslaw Frankowski remains stationed on the left flank.
Nampalys Mendy and Salis Abdul Samed are well-placed to keep their stations in central midfield. Elye Wahi, who scored the winner in the reverse fixture, was also sent off at the weekend against Clermont Foot. He will have no problems leading the line for Lens against Arsenal, while Adrien Thomasson and Florian Sotoca will provide support from slightly behind Wahi.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Samba; Gradit, Danso, Medina; Aguilar, Mendy, Samed, Frankowski; Thomasson, Sotoca; Wahi
- If Arsenal win, they will go through as winners of their Champions League group.
- Arsenal have won three of their four matches in this Champions League group.
- Arsenal and Lens have played five matches, with both sides winning two apiece.
- RC Lens have lost only one of their last 12 games in all competitions.
- RC Lens are unbeaten in their last three games against Arsenal in the Champions League.
Player to Watch
The Arsenal attacker has continued to prove decisive, although his performances still lack the edge of previous seasons. The winger has silently gone about making a mark. But now, Mikel Arteta will start demanding more from him ahead of the crunch period, including against Lens.
Arsenal are exactly where Arteta wants them to be in all competitions, and now it is time to step into another gear with their attacking play. Saka’s previous displays used to be energetic, but now he has chosen a very conservative approach.
However, the English international continues to be their game changer with one decisive moment in every game. Now, the manager would like to see something else, and Saka will look to make a point against Lens.
Arsenal 2-0 RC Lens
As the season has progressed, Arsenal have continually improved to correct even the smallest of mistakes in games. The reverse fixture against Lens halted some early-season momentum, but they have since grown into a solid defensive unit.
With home comfort, Mikel Arteta will expect Arsenal to put Lens to the sword and secure qualification into the next round as group winners. The Ligue 1 outfit hold a good record this season. But they might lose out to the Gunners in North London, further jeopardising their chances of progression from this group.