Phil Thompson
Football Expert

Don and dusted

'Play-maker Nasri ideal stand-in for injured Fabregas'

Round of applause: Nasri's attacking instincts should steer safely into the next stage

There was a massive gulf in class between Arsenal and Shakhtar Donetsk at the Emirates a fortnight ago.

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"I know Shakhtar are strong at home but Arsenal should still have enough up in the final third to earn their first win in the Ukraine."

Phil Thompson

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Arsenal were able to play how they wanted and, to be honest, it was 5-1 going on seven or eight. The scoreline didn't flatter them at all.

If they can tighten their seat-belt for the first stage of the return game in the Ukraine and come through the early parts unscathed I think they should be ok to make it four wins from four in Group H.

I say that even though losing Cesc Fabregas to injury is a huge setback; I watched Arsenal on Saturday when they huffed and puffed against West Ham and were pass, pass, pass all around the box; Fabregas was one of the few players to play the ball forward.

But, I must say, they have an ideal stand-in in the shape of Samir Nasri, who has been absolutely fantastic. As long as he plays, Arsenal will still have a decent playmaker - someone who can get forward quickly and turn defence into attack.


Arsene Wenger does have a few headaches to deal with before Wednesday as Alex Song, Andrey Arshavin and Denilson appear to be struggling for the game.

Arshavin has not been at his best so far this season and Theo Walcott can step in out wide, but I think they will miss Song if he doesn't make it.

He was fantastic on Saturday, and his goal was a real bonus; he gives them a little bit of much-needed strength in the middle of the park that the other players struggle to provide.

Arsenal have nine points from three games at the moment; they are more or less through and probably need another point just to make sure.

With Robin van Persie still a fortnight or so away from returning, I'd expect Nicklas Bendtner to play ahead of Marouane Chamakh.

I know Shakhtar are strong at home but Arsenal should still have enough up in the final third to earn their first win in the Ukraine.

THOMMO'S VERDICT: If Arsenal can get an early goal they could win this by two or three; however, I think they will rely on a counter-attacking game and win it 1-0 with a goal in the second-half.