Match day today, although given it’s featuring an Arsenal B team, perhaps games like the one this evening against F.C. Koln should be renamed ‘Match Day B’?
It’s a curious one, is today’s game, because we’re up against a German side who are on their own turf. It’s also a team who gave us a little scare in the reverse fixture at The Emirates. So you’d expect this to be a tough game. Yet Koln find themselves bottom of the Bundesliga. They’re yet to win a game domestically. It’s fair to say they’re not having a ‘lovely old time’ in Germany.
So you’d hope that Arsenal, fresh off the back of victory in the North London Derby, will be in a better state confidence-wise. Of course none of the Arsenal players who played on Saturday will probably line up today, but they all gain together, they’ll all have felt that buzz at the club, so I’d expect they’d all be able to profit from the goodwill and feeling surrounding the club at the moment.
So who will be starting for The Arsenal in this most irritating of kick off times?
I suspect we’ll see the return of Ospina in goal and hopefully Calum Chambers too. I’d like to see Big Per and Holding to complete the trio in the heart of the defence, because that might give Debuchy the chance to play as a right back and maybe, just maybe, we’d get to see Reiss Nelson further forward in an attacking position?
The youngster has looked good going forward and playing him in one of the front three in the absence of Walcott due to injury provides Wenger with a nice opportunity to experiment without damaging any senior pros egos.
On the left I suspect it’ll be square peg in round hole time in the shape of Maitland-Niles, whilst the centre of midfield will surely continue with Joe Willock and one of Elneny and Coquelin. My personal preference will be Elneny because I feel like he offers a greater degree of ball control when we’re in possession. Having somebody who can retain it rather than spray it out of play like Coquelin would do, is much more preferable, especially if we get plenty of possession of the ball.
In front of those two you have to have Jack, then assuming Giroud is fit (and I’ve seen little to suggest he’s not) I think he gets the nod, but I’d also expect Welbeck to play a part at some stage.
You could argue for a few players starting tonight though, so I suppose the positive is that we seem to have squad depth options, with Coquelin, Iwobi and Welbeck all feasibly as options from the bench if Arsène picks the team I’ve suggest above. But there seem to be a lot of variations on the team line up today, so I reckon the chances of getting the starting XI right aren’t exactly obvious, which does indeed show that we have depth. Whether it’s the right kind of depth can be argued vociferously, but not right now, not on a game day.
I didn’t even mention Nketiah, who Arsène referenced in his press conference, so expect him to get some minutes if things are going right.
As for Koln, Córdoba was the guy I remember getting in behind a couple of times on the night at home a couple of months back, so he’ll be the one that we’ll need to keep our eyes on. If Arsène goes for that experienced back three then it isn’t exactly blessed with pace, so my hope would be that the midfield are cutting off the frequency with which balls into the channels and round the corner of the back three are made. The Koln forward missed a couple of chances on the night in North London but we shouldn’t expect that to go on forever.
A point sees us top the group and means Arsène can rotate even more heavily against BATE in a couple of weeks time, so I’d hope that the team has enough to see this through, leaving us with top spot and a group that – assuming we win – has been relatively routine for our first time in the competition since the 90s.
Sadly due to the ridiculous nature of the kick off time I will miss the first half because of work commitments, but hopefully I’ll pick up a decent signal on the tube home.
Catch you all tomorrow.