It’s a trip to Belarus this evening for Arsène Wenger and his charges, as Arsenal line up against BATE Borisov and I think it’s fair to say that with all the will in the world, this isn’t a game in which we should be seeing too many players who will play on Sunday at noon.
It’s a bit of a shlep, we have bigger fish to fry in better competitions, and with the rotation that is happening at the moment it means we have the chance for some players to get proper rest in between weekend’s.
So it’s pleasing to see that Arsène has indeed taken a mixture of squad and youth players with some names in there that will be familiar to few of us. Charlie Gilmore, Marcus McGuane, Josh Dasilva and the awesomely named Bomd villain Vlad Dragomir all make the trip, along with more familiar youngsters of Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson and Chuba Akpom.
It’ll. e a chance to see a few of them, but I suspect the line up will be similar to last week’s League Cup team, so my gut tells me we’ll see Ospina, Nelson on the right, Mertesacker, Holding, possibly Mustafi in Chambers’ absence, Maitland Niles, As well as Wilshere in the middle. Who he is partnered with will be interesting though. Elneny started on Monday and so you’d think he’d probably be rested, so I wonder if Arsène will look to play Maitland-Niles alongside him and either give Dasilva a start at left back – which he’s mentioned is a position the guy plays – or whether he’ll bring in Monreal. Apparently Kolasinac didn’t train so I doubt he’ll be there tonight. Left back is a tough one because we have no natural understudy there and both choice full backs are playing regularly in the first team. So it would seem to suggest that throughout this season we’re going to see a lot of square pegs in left-back shaped holes.
Personally I’d give Dasilva a shout if it’s his natural position. If Mustafi plays at the back it gives him more protection than a back four would allow him, as well as more seniority in terms of experienced players on the pitch guiding him.
Arsène has also been talking up AMN’s position in defensive midfield so it seems natural to me to give him a shout. I don’t know whether or not that will happen though, as well as the fact I don’t know whether or not we’ll see Jack in a deeper lying role or as a number 10 or playing just behind the sole striker. Given that Alexis has been taken I wonder if Arsène starts him again tonight, because despite a few options to play behind Giroud, we seem to have a number of players who are not making the trip, like Iwobi and Özil. So I have a sneaky suspicion we’ll see Alexis and Theo just behind Giroud.
Of course I could be barking up the wrong tree here, because at the time of writing I’ve checked three separate reports which can’t decide between them whether Alexis has even travelled. I saw the pictures of him training on the official site tho, so I’ll go with that as the trump card.
I do wonder if Arsène will give a youngster a go in one of those two inside forward positions though, with the idea that he can use Alexis as his ‘ace-in-the-hole’ in the second half if he needs it.
As for our opponents, it will probably not surprise you to learn that I know little of them except for the fact that old Alex Hleb – who my iPhone keeps insisting should be called ‘Helen’ – played for them on four different occasions, the last of which was last year.
I am guessing they would like to be a little more adventurous on their home soil than away, but that remains to be seen and the first 15 to 20 minutes will probably give us the indication of the pattern of play. Even with the youngsters you’d expect us to have more control and possession of the football, but if BATE are a team that will sit deep, i expect them to be compact and that’s when we’ll need the craft of somebody like Alexis. It’d also be nice to see Giroud get his 100 today. The guy deserves it.
It’s another one of those ridiculous early kick offs and so I’ll probably end up missing the start of the game, but hopefully we’ll be already two up by the time I arrive to the curry house I’m watching the game in.
Up the Arsenal.