Arsenal prepare to take on Schalke after contrasting weekend fortunes

• Wenger's men keen to bounce back from Norwich defeat
• Schalke buoyed by 2–1 win at champions Dortmund

Arsenal are at ease when facing some of Europe's most formidable clubs. The side have lost only one of their previous 44 Champions League matches at home and that defeat only came in a semi-final, against Manchester United in 2009. Given those circumstances, the hosts are unlikely to panic about the arrival of Schalkeon Wednesday but the visitors do present a genuine danger.

At the weekend Huub Stevens' team won 2-1 in the away fixture with the reigning Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund. By contrast Arsène Wenger has seen his side lose to both Chelsea and Norwich. The season may still be in its early stages but it should trouble Arsenal that they are ninth in the Premier League. "Both games we have given away, basically," said Wenger. "We had more possession, more shots on goal, more chances. We have to be more efficient defensively than we have been in these two games.

"We had a difficult programme at the start but the three points we dropped at Norwich are not welcome. It came at a period where we absolutely needed to win this game. For the rest we are in a strong position. I am not too worried about the quality of the players coming back [from injury]. What is very important is that we do not lose more ground."

The impression remains that Wenger has a team best suited to the rhythm and tone of continental football. That conclusion seems absurd when the quantity of foreign players on the English scene is so great but it often feels as if they adapt to the character of the Premier League instead of altering it conclusively.

Arsenal had almost made it a matter of principle that they should be refined. Wenger, however, has still been attempting to make adjustments. There is an air of heightened experience now that players such as Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski have been bought.

Jack Wilshere missed the whole of last season with an ankle problem and, having featured for the whole 90 minutes in an under-21 match with Everton on Tuesday, he will not be asked to take any part. Wenger, in general, is less inclined to put the emphasis on precocity any more, even if he will be relieved when Wilshere makes his expected return soon in the Premier League.

While the average age of the side is still relatively low, Cazorla and Podolski are both 27. In essence Wenger has opted to turn to men who have already matured and established a style of play. Cazorla, bought from Málaga, is meant to bring knowhow to bear in matches. "He can open defences with the quality of his passing," said Wenger. "And he gives us a technical security that allows us sometimes when we are under pressure to get out of it. Overall I believe that he typifies the game we want to play and can make our game stronger and more efficient."

He ought to be a reassuring presence in a match that players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott will miss through injury. Nonetheless Schalke present real menace, especially in the shape of the much-travelled Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. He was the Bundesliga's top scorer last season with 29 goals.

These could turn into even more troubling times for Wenger. "The [international] break didn't help," he said, "but everybody has to cope with that. Norwich, you read, worked on their shape for two weeks. We had two players for two weeks. At the end of the day, part of being successful is to be capable to cope with these kind of problems that you have in a big club."

Wenger now looks for as much continuity as is feasible. He will not drop Vito Mannone despite the fact that he was at fault for Norwich's goal on Saturday. With Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski injured, he is the third-choice goalkeeper but the manager will not be replacing him with the 20-year-old Damián Martinez. "To put an even less-experienced player in now I don't think would be the right thing," said Wenger.

There has been enough disruption already and the task now is to make sure that mayhem descends on Schalke. Arsenal, however, will first have to recover poise and durability.


Kevin McCarra

The GuardianTramp

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