Morning Gooners. Y’all alreet?
It’s the Europa League for us tonight and it’s another away trip, this time to Red Star Belgrade, who feel like the sort of side you’d always have to play in computer games of the 80s and 90s in European competition. A former very decorated club, that name has drifted from the top table from some time tonight, but I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t care because I’m oddly looking forward to the game.
It offers some respite from the turgid away form domestically and with Arsène sure to ring the changes this evening it even feels like we’re going to be watching a different team. Which I guess we are; especially seeing as Matthieu Debuchy is getting in on the action.
I almost didn’t believe my eyes when I read that yesterday. We’re going to be playing Debuchy and, providing he stays fit, you’d expect him to get more game time in this competition as we see how his body reacts to top flight Football again.
I must admit to you though, I’ve never been as quick to dismiss the guy as some Arsenal players have, because I think there’s still a good player in there. Ok probably not good enough to play regularly for Arsenal, but as a midweek stand-in for Hector in European competition I think it could work.
What certainly does seem to have worked so far is the rotation that Arsène applies to midweek games and I’m all for it at this stage. So tonight there’ll be Ospina, Debuchy, Big Per, Monreal and Holding at the back I suspect, with Ainsley possibly filling in at left back. For Per that’s probably a good thing; with Mustafi our Mertesacker needs games to get up to his full flow and so I’d expect him to play most of the game today and then on Sunday too. Holding will continue to get minutes and so the only one that I suspect might play but we’d all rather he didn’t is Monreal. But given injuries to Chambers and Mustafi and Koscielny’s dodgy legs, we don’t really have many options.
In midfield I think we’ll see Wilshere given that he was wheeled out in the press and because I’m not sure Arsène risks Ramsey, but I wonder if he also starts with Coquelin. It could be an option and would certainly be more preferable than Elneny and Coquelin because those two together will have any Arsenal fan waking up with cold sweats, but Arsène does like his hierarchies so it wouldn’t surprise me becaude those two are next in line after Xhaka and Ramsey, so I think they start.
Nah, come on Chris, you know he’s starting Wilshere because Wenger loves him.
And we love him too and all any of us are hoping for is that he comes through another 90 minutes because he has something that nobody else in our team has. He has the vision but his ability to travel with the ball and exchange those quick passes to drive us forward through the phases is something we don’t see very much any more. Another good 90 for Jack tonight and I think we see him from the bench on Sunday. It all comes down to that.
In the attacking three I have a weird feeling we’ll see Alexis with Theo and Giroud. I certainly think the latter two – given what I mention above with the hierarchies – will play and despite the fact it doesn’t seem to actually work with Alexis and Giroud, the Frenchman and Theo have been scoring in Europe so providing they deliver again tonight I think Arsène will be reasonably satisfied.
The other question is around the younger players. Who’s getting game time tonight? Is it Willock? AMN? Does Nelson get 20 minutes at the end in an attacking position to see how he gets on?
I suspect we’ll see some at some stage this evening, because even though we want to win the game there are still two more home matches whereby wins will see us top the group anyway, so I think Arsène can still experiment. He is probably less mindful to do that straight away though because the sooner he can get to 12 points in the group the sooner he can make even more changes and play younger players.
So let’s hope for another three points tonight.
I’ll sign off now, but not before I say that away games in the Europa can f*ck off. I finish work at 6 which means I have no chance of watching the away games from the start. And that pisses me off. It’s the only thing I’ve hated about this competition so far which, given that I wanted us to throw it five months ago, is not so bad after all, I’d say.
Catch you all tomorrow.