Preview by Numbers: Anderlecht v. Arsenal, Champions League Group Matchday 3

Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Anderlecht
Wednesday, October 22
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from Spain
    • Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo
    • Assistants: Roberto Alonso and Juan Yuste
    • 4th Official: Angel Nevado Rodriguez
    • Additional Assistants: Carlos Del Cerro and Jesus Gil Manzano
  • All-Time in All Competitions: First competitive meeting, if you ask UEFA (see Match Facts)
  • Arsenal's European Form: L-D // D-W-L-W
  • Anderlecht's European Form: L-D-L-L // D-L
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 8 C / 48 F
Gunnersaurus will make everything better.
Well, things feel pretty dire now in Arsenal Land, don't they? For that reason, there's very little I can say here that you haven't heard already.

Of course, this running feature is not really about recapping, it's about looking ahead at the relevant informational trends pertaining to the next upcoming fixture. Then again, current form is one of those trends (as it's always one of the six bolded topics of discussion,) so what do I know?

What I do know is this: Arsenal needs a win very badly right now, so let's get to it.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Ospina (thigh,) Koscielny (Achilles,) Ozil (knee,) Debuchy (ankle,) Giroud (ankle)
Doubts: Gnabry (knee,) Walcott (knee,) Diaby (match fitness,) Sanogo (hamstring)
Suspended: Szczesny (one match, denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity)

It's not like we haven't gone to Belgium with our third
choice keeper before.
On Matchday 1 in 2009's group stage, Arsenal went to Belgium with their third string goalkeeper. Manuel Almunia had a chest infection and Lukasz Fabianski had a knee injury. A 21-year-old Italian by the name of Vito Mannone got the start, backed up on the bench by 19-year-old Wojciech Szczesny.

Within five minutes, Standard Liege led 2-0. On the first, while trying to clear a corner, Eduardo backheeled the ball straight back to the Belgian side. Minutes later, William Gallas conceded a penalty that wasn't in the box and Arsenal were truly up against it. Arsenal stormed back to win the match 3-2, thanks in part to an equalizer where Alex Song handled in the buildup.

Fun little story, looking back on it, and highly relevant now that it appears Emiliano Martinez will be getting the nod in goal with Szczesny suspended and David Ospina now out for three months (!) with a thigh injury he reaggravated when he replaced Szczesny on Matchday 2 (recall Ospina did not make the bench against Chelsea that weekend.) If first team training pictures are anything to go by, 17-year-old Ryan Huddart might be Martinez's back-up on the bench.

Martinez has made only two appearances for Arsenal, both in the 2012 League Cup campaign; he had very little to do in a 6-1 win over Coventry, but then spotted Reading a 4-0 lead before Arsenal stormed back to win 7-5 in extra time. Last year, Martinez made 15 appearances on loan at Sheffield Wednesday, getting the Owls to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Calum Chambers will return after missing the weekend through domestic suspension, but with Laurent Koscielny out, Chambers will play in the middle of defense while Hector Bellerin should retain his place at right back.

Ahead of the back four, I don't suspect there'll be too many changes, save maybe Mikel Arteta for Mathieu Flamini. Aaron Ramsey might get a nod as well, as he came back from his hamstring injury much faster than expected.

Predicted XI: Martinez, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Chambers, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck.

Anderlecht Squad News

Out: N'Sakala (knee)
Doubts: Nuytinck (knock,) Vanden Borre (match fitness)

If you thought Ryan Huddart was young, Youri Tielemans is
even younger!
The Belgian side have only one major injury to contend with, as French full-back Fabrice N'Sakala has been out since the beginning of September with a knee ligament injury; he will not be back until November at the earliest. Meanwhile, Dutch center back Bram Nuytinck is a doubt after missing last weekend's match. Ex-Portsmouth defender Anthony Vanden Borre has not featured this season after tearing a calf muscle at the World Cup. The Belgian international completed 59 minutes for Anderlecht's Under-21 team on October 9.

Six of the 11 players listed in the projected line-up below are 21 years of age or younger. 20-year-old Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrovic leads the forward line; he has eight international caps. Youri Tielemans, one of the holding midfielders, is just 17; last year, he became the youngest Belgian ever to appear in the Champions League. He's actually younger, by two months, than the 17-year-old goalkeeper Arsenal might have on the bench. Congolese fullback Chancel Mbemba Mangulu and Belgian midfielder Dennis Praet are also both 20.

Predicted XI: Proto, Deschacht, Nuytinck, Mbemba, Najar, Defour, Tielemans, Conte, Praet, Acheampong, Mitrovic.

Current Form

Dortmund celebrates one of their three goals at Anderlecht
on Matchday 2.
Form? What's that?

Well, it's really bad for Arsenal right now. Across all competitions, Arsenal have now won just two of their last nine games and three of their last 12. The Gunners have just four wins in total, if you don't count the Community Shield, and it's almost the end of October! Last year, Arsenal enjoyed their fifth win on September 14, just after the first international break. The year before, win number five came on October 3. In 2011, it was September 24, and that was the year Arsenal lost 8-2 at Old Trafford and then 4-3 at Blackburn. Astonishing. Arsenal have already drawn six matches, across all competitions, this year. They drew eight all of last year.

Anderlecht are unbeaten thus far in the Belgian Pro League season, winning six and drawing five; they are three points clear of second place Club Brugge. Of course, the Belgian league is a bit strange; with only 16 teams, the regular season ends in March. The top six teams then all face each other twice again in a playoff and the team with the most points from that phase wins the Belgian championship. Anderlecht won the championship last season, their 33rd all-time, despite finishing third in the "regular season."

On the other hand, Anderlecht have gone 10 European matches without a win, dating back to 2012. Their last win in Europe came 1-0 over Zenit St. Petersburg on Matchday 4 of the 2012 group stage. They then lost to AC Milan and drew Malaga to finish fourth in the group. Last year, the club lost five and drew one (away to PSG!) in the group stage to again finish fourth. This year, after a Matchday 1 draw with Galatasaray, they lost 3-0 to Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 2.

Match Facts

Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down at Standard Liege on their
last trip to Belgium, a story I told you before. I included this
picture just so you can see Nick Bendtner's popped collar.
This is the first competitive meeting between Arsenal and Anderlecht, according to UEFA's method of record keeping. Arsenal defeated Anderlecht in the 1970 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final, losing 3-1 in Belgium in the first leg before winning 3-0 at Highbury. However, because that cup was not organized by UEFA, they do not consider it part of their records.

Keeping that in mind, the rest of the numbers in this section do not include the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup as part of its totals.

The Gunners have lost just once against Belgian competition; incidentally, that was Arsenal's first match against a Belgian side: KFC Winterslag defeated Arsenal 1-0 in the 1981/82 UEFA Cup second round first leg. Arsenal won the return leg 2-1, but Winterslag went through on away goals. In 1988, Winterslag merged with another club and are now known as KRC Genk.

Arsenal have won all four meetings against Belgian sides since that tie, all against Standard Liege. In the second round of the 1993/94 Cup Winners' Cup, Arsenal won 3-0 at Highbury in the first leg, then 7-0 in Liege in the second to win the tie 10-0 on aggregate. Arsenal went on to win that competition. Then, in the 2009 group stage, Arsenal won 3-2 in Liege on Matchday 1 and 2-0 in London on Matchday 5.

Anderlecht have faced English competition 28 times, losing 18 of them; they've won six and drawn the other four. In Belgium, Anderlecht have a record of six wins, three draws, and six losses against English teams, including finals; they have lost all 13 matches they've played on English soil, including a penalty shootout loss to Tottenham in the 1984 UEFA Cup Final.

The Referee

"Everyone stop doing things, please!"
The match officials are from Spain; the referee is Carlos Velasco Carballo. Arsenal have had Velasco Carballo on three occasions and have won all three: 2-1 over Olympiacos at the Emirates in the 2011 group stage, 2-1 at Montpellier in the 2013 group stage (in which Montpellier opened the scoring from a dubious penalty,) and 2-0 over Fenerbahce in last year's play-off second leg. He was also the referee to send off Wojciech Szczesny for Poland in the first match of the 2012 Euros; for other officials who have sent off Szczesny, see Matchday 2. While he has taken charge of 53 UEFA matches, this will be Velasco Carballo's first involving Anderlecht.

Velasco Carballo came under heavy criticism this summer after taking charge of the World Cup quarterfinal match between Brazil and Colombia, a match which was very much out of hand. Each side were shown two yellow cards apiece, despite there being an astonishing total of 54 fouls whistled. Incidentally, that was also the match where David Ospina first injured his thigh...

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: CSKA Moscow 2 - 2 Manchester City
  • Tuesday: Roma 1 - 7 Bayern Munich
  • Tuesday: Barcelona 3 - 1 Ajax
  • Tuesday: APOEL Nicosia 0 - 1 Paris St. Germain
  • Tuesday: Chelsea 6 - 0 Maribor
  • Tuesday: Schalke 04 4 - 3 Sporting Clube de Portugal
  • Tuesday: Porto 2 - 1 Athletic Bilbao
  • Tuesday: BATE Borisov 0 - 7 Shakhtar Donetsk
  • Wednesday: Atletico Madrid v. Malmo; Vicente Calderon Stadium, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Olympiacos v. Juventus; Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus
  • Wednesday: Liverpool v. Real Madrid; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Wednesday: Ludogorets Razgrad v. Basel; Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia
  • Wednesday: Bayer Leverkusen v. Zenit St. Petersburg; BayArena, Leverkusen
  • Wednesday: Monaco v. Benfica; Stade Louis II, Monaco
  • Wednesday: Galatasaray v. Borussia Dortmund; Turk Telekom Arena, Istanbul