Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Dinamo Zagreb, Champions League Group Matchday 5

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, November 24
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from Hungary
    • Referee: Viktor Kassai
    • Assistants: Gyorgy Ring and Vencel Toth
    • 4th Official: Peter Berettyan
    • Additional Assistants: Tamas Bognar and Adam Farkas
  • Reverse Fixture: Dinamo Zagreb 2 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 2 Arsenal wins, 1 Dinamo Zagreb win
  • Arsenal's European Form: L-W // L-L-W-L
  • Dinamo Zagreb's European Form: W-W-W-L-L-L
Still the most useful graphic I've ever made.
If Arsenal are to reach the knockout phase for the 16th consecutive season, they're going to need a bit of help. They have to win tonight, first and foremost. In addition to that, they'll need Bayern Munich to defeat Olympiacos. Technically, those two sides would both be through with a draw, but I don't really think of Bayern as the kind of team that plays for just a point, especially in Munich. If those two results happen, then Arsenal can finish second in the group if they win in Greece on matchday six by a better scoreline than Olympiacos's win at the Emirates had been (3-2, if you forgot.)

But, we'll cross that bridge if we're lucky enough to come to it. Arsenal limp into this fixture having lost at the Hawthorns for the first time since 2005. Since winning four in a row at the end of October, the Gunners have now won once in their last five across all competitions. They're out of the League Cup, they've tumbled back to fourth in the Premier League table, and they are fighting for the lives in the Champions League. And their injury problems aren't getting any better.

The Gunners are staring down the barrel of... well, a cannon, I suppose. But it only takes one win to start a winning streak.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Coquelin (knee,) Arteta (calf,) Walcott (calf,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Doubts: Ramsey (hamstring)

Aaron Ramsey, in training yesterday preparing to be out
injured again real soon.
With the word that Francis Coquelin will be out at least nine years... I mean, two months, with a knee injury, the Arsenal Internet-o-sphere went from its usual level of generic panic to full on lunacy mode yesterday, so I largely avoided reading anything that wasn't explicitly news. This is exacerbated by the fact that Coquelin's replacement on Saturday, Mikel Arteta, is also out in the "short-term" with a calf injury. Considering Arteta continually gets hurt when he gets a run out, the use of the phrase "short-term" feels merely nominal. It would appear that Mathieu Flamini will deputize in the position for the time being, while Calum Chambers will provide cover.

On the plus side, Aaron Ramsey is available again; he has not played since picking up a hamstring injury in the win over Bayern Munich. I've listed him as a "doubt" above as he is on his way back from injury. It looks like he'll have to start, though, since Arsenal currently lack available players in numerous critical midfield positions. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should be available this weekend against Norwich, while Theo Walcott will be the next player back after that.

All that said, those are the only two changes I could see being made to the XI: Flamini coming in for the injured Coquelin/Arteta and Aaron Ramsey returning to the wings, which would mean Kieran Gibbs drops back to the bench.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Cazorla, Alexis, Ramsey, Ozil, Giroud.

Dinamo Zagreb Squad News

Out: None
Suspended: Pivaric (one match, red card) Ademi (four years, failed drug test)

Look, you can even see the drugs in his... oh, that's
Arteta's hair.
The Croatian side have no injured players in their ranks (maybe we can share some of ours?) but the biggest news lies elsewhere within the squad. Holding midfielder Arijan Ademi has been handed a four-year ban for failing a drug test following Zagreb's matchday one victory over Arsenal; Ademi played 90 minutes in the match and later played on matchday two before being suspended by UEFA. Incidentally, if a second player had tested positive, UEFA would have grounds for disqualification (which would seriously alter Arsenal's knockout qualification outlook...)

Elsewhere in the side, defender Josip Pivaric will serve a ban after being sent off from Zagreb's matchday four loss to Olympiacos.

The Ademi suspension has brought about a tactical change in Dinamo Zagreb's Champions League formations; after playing a 4-3-3 against Arsenal and Bayern Munich, they trotted out a 4-2-3-1 formation in both matches against Olympiacos. It's hard to tell whether the formation change came from Ademi's lack of availability or from the differing opposition.

Predicted XI: Eduardo, Matel, Taravel, Sigali, Musa, Antolic, Rog, Pjaca, Machado, Fernandes, Hodzic.

Current Form

Don't touch him!
Arsenal's form has tanked since their 2-1 win over Everton had extended a winning streak to four matches back on October 24. After that, Arsenal went up to Sheffield for a fourth round League Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday, lost two right wingers to injury, and lost the match 3-0. Blip on the radar, perhaps? After a sluggish first half, Arsenal ran riot over Swansea in the second half the following weekend and all seemed right with the world again.

Then, the trip to Munich and a 5-1 loss in Europe led into a North London derby in which the Gunners were lucky to steal a point at home. Arsenal had certainly stumbled over some tough hurdles, but they had not fallen. But now, after a 2-1 loss at West Bromwich Albion claimed two more injured players, it's hard not to be concerned about Arsenal's overall form. It would be frightening, indeed, if Arsenal had these results with a fully fit squad; since their squad has been held together with duct tape over the last three weeks, its hard to objectively judge this form at all.

As for Dinamo Zagreb, their win over Arsenal on matchday one was number 42 in an unbeaten streak that would reach 45 across all competitions. Of course, then they had to play at Bayern Munich, where they lost 5-0. In Europe, they have also now lost both fixtures to Olympiacos. Oddly enough, they've started dropping results domestically in the games that have followed the broken unbeaten run. In six league games since their loss at Bayern, Dinamo Zagreb have won three, lost two, and drawn one. That leaves them now in second place in Croatia, two points behind Rijeka.

Match Facts

Okay, Olivier, we're gonna need you to stay on the pitch
this time. Thanks in advance.
Going back to my preview for the reverse fixture, I wrote, "It's a game Arsenal should win, but we all know how those turn out sometimes..."

I hate it when I'm right like that. Arsenal were shocked by a 2-1 defeat in Croatia on matchday one; the tide of the match turned on an unfortunate bounce and an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain own goal on 24 minutes. Just before halftime, Olivier Giroud was sent off for a second bookable offense, forcing Arsenal to search for their equalizer using only ten men. Junior Fernandes doubled the hosts' lead just before the hour mark, making Arsenal's comeback next to impossible. Theo Walcott pulled a goal back 11 minutes from time, but the Gunners could not find an equalizer, setting off this disastrous-to-date Champions League campaign off on the wrong foot.

The only previous meetings between the clubs came in the final qualifying round before the 2006 group stage; Arsenal won that tie 5-1 on aggregate, winning both matches.

The Referee

Soccer Touchdown!
The match officials are from Hungary; the referee is Viktor Kassai. By and large, Arsenal have a poor record with Kassai, losing three and winning one, but the one win was their most recent match involving the Hungarian official. That was last year's group matchday five win over Borussia Dortmund, 2-0.

As for the terrible rest of that list of matches with Kassai, Arsenal lost 2-0 at Braga on matchday five in 2010, then 4-0 at AC Milan in the round of 16 in 2012, then 2-0 at Napoli on matchday six in 2013. Most of those matches included terrible calls going against the Gunners, including Mikel Arteta's controversial sending off from the match in Naples.

This will be Kassai's first match for Dinamo Zagreb. The only other Champions League match Kassai has worked involving a Croatian side was a second qualifying round match in 2004, where Hajduk Split beat Irish side Shelbourne, 3-2.

Around Europe

  • Tuesday: BATE Borisov v. Bayer Leverkusen; Borisov Arena, Barysaw
  • Tuesday: Barcelona v. Roma; Camp Nou, Barcelona
  • Tuesday: Bayern Munich v. Olympiacos; Allianz Arena, Munich
  • Tuesday: Porto v. Dynamo Kiev; Estadio do Dragao, Porto
  • Tuesday: Maccabi Tel Aviv v. Chelsea; Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa
  • Tuesday: Zenit St. Petersburg v. Valencia; Petrovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg
  • Tuesday: Lyon v. Gent; Stade de Gerland, Lyon
  • Wednesday: Malmo v. Paris St. Germain; Swedbank Stadion, Malmo
  • Wednesday: Shakhtar Donetsk v. Real Madrid; Arena Lviv, Lviv
  • Wednesday: CSKA Moscow v. Wolfsburg; Arena Khimki, Khimki
  • Wednesday: Manchester United v. PSV Eindhoven; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Wednesday: Astana v. Benfica; Astana Arena, Astana
  • Wednesday: Atletico Madrid v. Galatasaray; Vicente Calderon Stadium, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Juvenus v. Manchester City; Juvenus Stadium, Turin
  • Wednesday: Borussia Monchengladbach v. Sevilla; Stadion im Borussia-Park, Monchengladbach
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and sans-serif typeface. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to voice your demand for more serifs.