WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) is back in the European football saddle. Here he previews Arsenal’s short trip to the French capital to face a somewhat new-look PSG in the Champions League group stage.
PSG v Arsenal | Tuesday 19:45 | BT Sport 1
Arsene Wenger heads to his nation’s capital for only the second time as manager of Arsenal, the first being the 2006 Champions League final against Barcelona in Saint-Denis. The Gunners have been notoriously slow starters in the Champions League group stage for some years now.
The North London club have been knocked out of the competition in the Round of 16 in all of the last six seasons and you get the feeling that less is expected of them than has been for some time.
The inflated 33/1 on Arsenal lifting the trophy reflects that, they’ve been around the 20/1 mark for each of the last five seasons.
In recent Champions League home games, they’ve lost 3-1 to Monaco, 3-2 to OIympiakos and drawn 3-3 with Anderlecht, however, they’ve fared much better on their travels; it’s now seven away Champions League matches in a row in which they scored, including trips to Munich and Barcelona and with PSG’s shaky start and the change at the back with David Luiz leaving I’m not going to be backing a home clean sheet.
Wenger has somewhat of a catalogue of terrible European results these days. Those three recent results are just the latest in a long line of failures dating back since the start of his reign; a few particular lowlights are losing 1-0 to Lens in 1998, 3-0 in Donetsk and 4-1 to Spartak Moscow in 2000, humiliated 4-0 by AC Milan in 2012 and losing 5-1 in Munich last November when taking a 2-0 aggregate lead with them.
Wenger’s overall away European record with Arsenal since 2000 reads W33-D19-L34. That’s simply not good enough.
Paris St. Germain have now lost just 1 of their last 30 home games, a 2-0 reverse at the hands of AS Monaco. Les Rouge et Blancs have also beaten them already this season, winning 3-1 in the principality.
The 1-1 draw at home to St. Etienne last Friday has confirmed that PSG are having a bit of a wobble to the start of this season but it’s hard to oppose them when you see their recent home record in Europe.
PSG have lost just one of their last 20 Champions League home ties and that was to Barcelona last season. During that period, they’ve beaten Chelsea twice, Barcelona, Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen and Porto going W13-D6-L1.
It must be said that outside of those six wins mentioned above, the other seven were arguably against lesser lights; Dynamo Kiev, Malmo, Shakhtar Donetsk, OIympiakos, APOEL, Ajax and Dinamo Zagreb.
A lot of the tougher games have resulted in draws; Real Madrid, Valencia, Manchester City, Chelsea and Barcelona have all drawn at the Parc des Princes since 2012. Perhaps significantly though, four of them came in the knockout stages which are are usually closer, cagey affairs.
So where am I going with this? Well, 11 of Arsenal’s last 18 European away defeats have seen both sides notch and with PSG conceding in three of their five competitive fixtures this season and Arsenal in three of their four I think there’s value in goals.
The 10/11 about a home win is a little too short for me but I’m happy to back PSG to win and both teams to score at 37/13 with 888Sport. Since PSG reappeared at the premier European level in 2012 they’ve conceded in eight of their 13 home wins.
Presnel Kimpembe has impressed for the hosts since featuring a few times last season as did Thomas Meunier in pre-season. It will be their first European games for PSG but I’m not overly concerned about that.
Angel Di Maria and Edinson Cavani came off the bench last Friday after returning from their World Cup qualifiers in South America. They should be well rested now. Unai Emery prefers to play a midfield three and it’s one that I think could dominate Arsenal’s; choosing between Grzegorz Krychowiak, Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot and Blaise Matuidi is incredibly tough.
Emery is an expert at winning in Europe; three successive Europa League trophies with Sevilla is an unprecedented level of consistency. I think he’ll be able to improve on PSG’s Champions League knockout form as a result.
Squad wise Arsenal are in better shape than a few weeks ago. Granit Xhaka is expected to start ahead of Francis Coquelin, whilst Aaron Ramsey doesn’t travel but elsewhere the defence and midfield are mostly available.
The Gunners left it late against Southampton on Saturday but the defence has a much more solid feel about it now with Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny on the road to forming a partnership.
Up front Olivier Giroud should be back to full fitness and having Theo Walcott available feels like a luxury. Combined with Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain they should give PSG plenty to think about but I’m still siding with the hosts on the basis of that European home record.
Paris St. Germain v Arsenal – Paris St. Germain to win and both teams to score (37/13 888Sport)