Arsenal vs Anderlecht: Gunners 'near end of tunnel'
Arsene Wenger is looking on the bright side, and his team should have something to celebrate tonight
Arsenal could seal their qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League tonight when they host Belgian side Anderlecht at the Emirates. Victory for the Gunners – and for group D leaders Borussia Dortmund who host Turkish side Galatasaray – would see both clubs qualify with two matches to spare.
Arsenal should be too strong for Anderlecht, whom they beat 2-1 when they met last month in Belgium. On that occasion the north London side were decidedly off-colour, yet they still had enough quality to come back and win the game with two goals in the closing minutes. Two weeks on and Arsenal are still plagued by injury problems, but according to manager Arsene Wenger "we're near the end of the tunnel".Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Debuchy are still sidelined with various ailments – as is midfielder Jack Wislhere, who's caught the same bug that laid Aaron Ramsey last week – but the Welshman is back on his feet, as is Theo Walcott, who could even make his first start this evening since January. The winger ruptured his anterior knee ligament against Tottenham and made his first appearance as a late substitute in Arsenal's 3-0 defeat of Burnley at the weekend.In the absence of Walcott – and, since early September, Giroud – the burden of scoring goals for Arsenal has fallen on Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean arrived at the Emirates in the summer from Barcelona and has proved himself a Premier League natural, scoring ten times for his new club despite failing to find the net in his first four appearances. "I believe he had a difficult start to integrate with the team, it was not easy for him to adapt to us and us to him," said Wenger. "Now he is showing how good he is. I believe what you want from every top player is not just individual quality but also a fighter."Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta went further than Wenger in praising Sanchez, describing him as a "bull" and adding: "He goes again and again. That's the only secret with Alexis, he wants to get better and better…the way he's contributing to the team and the spirit of the group as well is very good."Sanchez, and Arsenal, have the tools to put a hatful of goals past Anderlecht this evening but only if they apply themselves in a way they didn't when the two clubs met in early October.
"We respect Anderlecht because they gave us a tough game and we had a little bit of a miraculous win," admitted Wenger. "We are warned. We have learned a lot from the first game and, of course, now at the Emirates we want to win the game again."