When Arsenal visited Paris earlier in the season, we escaped with a point and our tails firmly between our legs.
We were overawed for long periods, out-thought, and out-worked by a rampant home side and had David Ospina to thank for keeping us in the game until, late on, we were able to steal a share of the spoils.
The draw also owed much to the ineptitude – at least on that occasion – of South American striker Edinson Cavani, who missed at least four excellent chances to extend the host’s lead.
Despite all the negatives around the match, however, it did turn out to be something of a turning point for the squad, which subsequently went on a strong run that has propelled us towards the top end of both domestic and European league tables.
Quite how far we have progressed will be revealed this evening when we welcome PSG to London for the all-important return fixture, the result of which will almost certainly decide who wins the Champions League group.
There was much that was poor about the way we set up and performed against PSG, and there was a good deal of fortune about the result.
But tonight offers Arsene Wenger’s men the chance to demonstrate quite what they have learned and how they have adapted in those intervening two months or so.
Defensively we are much more resolute and working effectively as a team to nullify our opposition. In attack we have shown a real killer instinct this season, making the most of chances we would undoubtedly have spurned in seasons gone by.
The visit of PSG represents the perfect opportunity to test ourselves and measure our progression and it should be an opportunity the team is relishing.
There is no room tonight for the sort of trepidation we saw at Old Trafford and, indeed, in Paris. That’s not to say we should be suicidal and over-expose ourselves, but we should be playing with the sort of freedom that makes us such a threat.
We should look to take the game to the visitors and, to do that, we must ensure that our ball players are as involved as they can be. That means, in my eyes, bringing Granit Xhaka into the starting line-up, at the expense of Mohamed Elneny. There is nothing wrong with the way Elneny plays – he is an excellent defensive midfielder – but he simply cannot be paired with Francis Coquelin, the partnership is stifling to our attacking ambitions.
We must also see Alex Iwobi restored to the left wing, in place of Aaron Ramsey. I agree with the prevailing wisdom when it comes to the Welshman; he either plays in the centre of midfield or he doesn’t play. Putting him on either wing is a waste of his talent and renders him almost ineffectual in the big games. I appreciate that he can add some defensive stability in a way that Iwobi isn’t able at the moment, but this is a game we need to win, not one in which we need to consolidate and build.
All things considered, I can see this one being a real ripper of a match, featuring two progressive, attacking sides that play at a high tempo and boast a wealth of talent.
I don’t see us making the same mistakes tonight as did in the first meeting of the sides and for that reason I am confident. What we cannot do, however, is give Cavani the same number and quality of chances he was afforded in the first match, because you can be sure that he also won’t make the same mistakes as he did in Paris.