Why Arsenal should field team of sacrificial lambs at football's greatest slaughterhouse

Why Arsenal should field team of sacrificial lambs at football’s greatest slaughterhouse

If Arsene Wenger is to prevent the total implosion of a season that had promised so much more than simply the retention of the top-four cup, then Arsenal must win the Premier League title.

To this end, drawing a line through the Gunners’ hopeless task in the Champions League is an archetypal no-brainer.

Arsenal, as their 22/1 odds at bwin.com illustrate, will not be advancing at Barcelona’s expense.

Meanwhile, defying a price of 13/2 on overhauling Leicester, albeit from nine points behind the Foxes with nine to play, is altogether more conceivable.

Losing a home first leg 2-0 might not be accepted as terminal damage against some opponents, but against the European champions it’s a Champions League funeral of a scoreline.

Despite the usual murmurings of defiance from Wenger in the build up which we’ve all become accustomed to hearing at this precise stage of the competition – Arsenal are staring at a sixth successive round-of-16 exit – the Frenchman’s sense of pride should be replaced by a notion of practicality.

Preventing Barcelona from reaching a ninth straight Champions League quarter-final, securing a tenth consecutive continental victory at the Camp Nou or even inflicting a first defeat on Luis Enrique’s treble winners in 38 matches in all competitions, simply isn’t going to happen.

The scary thing is there are a stack more damning stats which could be rolled out. The most basic being the polar opposite form of the opposing sides, but not forgetting their last two knock-out stage ejections at Catalan hands either.

Barca prepped for this midweek tie with a 6-0 La Liga success at home to Getafe, their eighth win in all comps, while Arsenal’s FA Cup defence came crashing down at home to Watford, stretching their winless run to four – the last three of those being defeats.

The answer is simple. Wenger must prioritise. The wily Frenchman must set aside his pride and lead the lambs into the slaughter at the Camp Nou, in order to rest his key men for the Premier League battle ahead.

Why risk the likes of defensive lynchpin Laurent Koscielny who is just returning from injury, to be pulled from pillar to post against the world’s most lethal attack, when Calum Chambers could use the experience?

Similarly, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, singled out as quality players by Wenger’s opposite number Enrique, should be wrapped in the fluffy white stuff, not sent into what could well become a bloodbath.

Barca have now scored five or more times at home in seven matches across all competitions this season, including a 6-1 humbling of Roma on matchday five of the Champions League.

The Gunners are due to line up against Everton on Saturday lunchtime for a crucial league game where they start as lukewarm 31/20 favourites, but imagine the consternation among Arsenal fans if that status is risked by the absence of a star player or two, injured in a totally lost cause.

Wenger must send the young guns forth for the harshest coming-of-age lesson football has to offer.