Right, take a deep breath, a sip of coffee, a needle full of adrenaline to a vein on your big toe and pinch your ballsack, because here are the permutations of tonight’s matches as explained by UEFA, and it requires your full attention:

• Arsenal will clinch qualification, and top spot, with a draw or a victory.

• If Dortmund fail to win, Napoli will advance with a victory – in the event of a three-way head-to-head on 12 points, the two qualifiers will be decided by the precise scorelines between the three teams.

• A draw is only enough for Napoli if Dortmund, who have a superior head-to-head, lose. If Napoli lose they are out.

• Dortmund are through if they win. Should Dortmund draw, they will progress if Napoli do not win. Dortmund can only afford to lose if Napoli are also beaten.

• Marseille will be fourth.

As complicated and intricate as that all sounds, the bottom line is that we’ll be heading into the match seeking nothing less than a victory. In a press conference yesterday, Arsene Wenger and Laurent Koscielny faced the media and made it apparent that, that is indeed the case.

“We have our usual game, we will have possession of the ball and try to win the game”, stated a very confident  Professor, “I know Rafa Benitez will prepare well for the match and all we can do is play our game and put in a good performance because an average performance will not be enough”.

However, with an early start on Saturday against a Manche$ter City side that just beat Bayern Munich away, to end a very busy week, Wenger admitted that squad rotation is key. And although we can’t really afford to send out a second string side against a Napoli team which will do everything they can to win, I reckon players such as Ramsey and Ozil will start on the bench. Theo Walcott and Thomas Rosicky will likely get a start, offering pace and energy to counter attack what will surely be a very determined Naples side.

More importantly though, it will be interesting to see who Arsene decides to play in the holding midfielder position tonight, seeing as the key battle will be Hamsik v whoever’s sitting in front of the back four. The probable choice would be Flamini as he knows the league and the atmosphere of Italian stadiums pretty well; that and he’s a sort of Gattuso 2.0.

I’d also like to see Thomas Vermaelen getting a start ahead of either Koscielny or Mertesacker as his showing against Manchester United a couple of weeks ago merits it. Can he handle Higuain? I think he can. The more worrying bigger picture here however, is that for the first time in a long time we have a real shot at winning the title, and to me Vermaelen is vital to our chances.  The fine form of Per and Laurent is partly due to the fact that their team captain, a very great defender himself, is snapping at the back of their heels. And with January looming it’d be foolish not to play him because I fear if we don’t give the lad some minutes he could well pack up his bags and leave us half way through the season.

In terms of tonight’s match, it’d be fantastic to see an Arsenal team going out unto the pitch with absolutely no fear. Cold, ruthless and decisive are the words I want to use to describe our performance after the final whistle. Arsene Wenger, with one eye on Saturday and fatigue within the squad, will most probably instruct the players to make use of possession. Although we would be content with a draw, we also realise that Benitez will be seeking three points and throwing men at us looking for a goal, though he’d be wise to be aware of our counter attacking prowess. All the permutations that exist will make for a very interesting match. Don’t miss it whatever you do. Kick  off at 19:45.


In Injury news, no new updates were given on Diaby, Sanogo or Oxlade-Chamberlain. Bacary Sagna and Lukas Podolski on the other hand will be in contention for the City match, but have been left in London ahead of tonight’s Italian fixture.


Albanian Gooner @Trimi Ratkoceri

Gooner Ramble

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