Hooray for match day I say!
After the last few days of it being about Ivan and his departure, after back-to-back away games in between an international break, we finally get back to The Arsenal at home and tonight is the first time I’m back to The Emirates since the opening day defeat to City.
That was fully one month ago and so in a full season where I’d normally see Arsenal 25 times at home (roughly) and a few away, it’s felt weird starting and then stopping the matchday ritual for this period of time (I couldn’t make it to the West Ham win).
So despite the fact it’s against a team who I haven’t even faced off against in Championship/Football Manager despite nearly three decades of playing the game, and I haven’t even heard of FC Vorskla a few weeks ago, I’m still buzzing for tonight’s game.
What I’m hopeful for is an Arsenal team that shows the difference in class and bags plenty of goals.
But what I’m actually also really excited about is seeing some new faces and despite the comments from Unai that he’ll field a stronger side than many expect, I still believe we’ll see mass rotation in tonight’s team, especially with the visit of Everton on Sunday afternoon.
He surely must do. This going to be a long season, there will be injuries and suspensions, we will need the whole squad to be match fit and ready to be called upon and that means competitions like this and the Carabao Cup are vitally important. They provide an opportunity to keep players motivated, to keep them fighting for a place in the first XI, plus it gives us an opportunity to see which of the young players is potentially able to step in when we are in need.
As to who will start for Arsenal, well, that is still probably a bit of a mystery but I think we can piece together a bit of an idea based on who hasn’t played. Leno surely has to come in and whilst there will be plenty of people calling on him to take his chance against our Europa League opponent’s, given their background and supposed lack of quality in comparison to Arsenal, it does feel as though tonight will hardly be a game where we’ll see him making save after save and deposing Cech by Sunday.
I suspect what we’ll see is Leno standing around a lot, but what will be interesting is when the ball is given back to him with it at his feet, and how comfortable he’ll look. That’s what has been Cech’s downfall this season and so if Leno looks more assured then it probably doesn’t matter that he probably won’t see much in the way of goal-mouth action today.
Well, he shouldn’t anyway, although this Arsenal team hardly inspires confidence. Nevertheless we’ll see a different back line today and so I expect there will be first starts of the season for Holding, Mavropanos, Lichtsteiner, but who takes that other full back position I’m not sure. With Sead and Ainsley our the only first team left back is Nacho so I suspect we’ll see Lichtsteiner move there because of his experience, with a young player coming in at right back. If that’s the case it will be interesting to see who Emery picks because so much of his focus for the full backs this season has been on them being able to get forward and contribute high up the pitch.
Given the opposition today you’d expect that to be the case again and so whoever he picks at full back will surely need to be somebody who is comfortable getting forward with plenty of recovery pace. Carl Jenkinson is in the team and so could play, but I just wonder if given his lack of a future at the club, Emery opts for a younger player to be given a chance. Dominic Thompson has been promoted and so could be a decent shout to start.
Midfield and attack becomes a little easier to pick options. However, it feels like it could also give us insight in to who starts against Everton. We’re all chomping at the bit for Torreira but if he starts tonight, does he play against Everton? Or if he doesn’t start is that because he’s being saved for Everton?
I suspect Elneny will play as the holding midfielder and so it will be one of Torreira, Guendouzi, Willock, who will play alongside him. Then you’re talking about the three in front being one of Welbeck, Iwobi, Smith-Rowe, Mkhitaryan. If I had to guess I’d think it would be the three more experienced players with Mkhitaryan playing in the middle as a 10, but Emery does like a bit of Smith-Rowe so I wouldn’t be surprised.
Then up top the decision is whether to give Eddie a shout or whether to see if Auba can rediscover some confidence by playing and hopefully scoring. He hasn’t looked right on the left wing and so anything that we can do to help boost him would be welcome, but personally I’d be starting with the youngster, because he looks a real talent and we need to be chucking him in to see if he’s got it in games this season. Last season he showed he’s happy to be on the big stage and so this season should be about cementing that belied for Nketiah. That’s what I’m hoping for this evening. Let’s have the start of a good season for him.
As for our opponents, well, forgive me for a complete lack of knowledge or insight but quite frankly I’ve not bothered to do much reading up. Arsenal should beat them and beat them well and if they don’t then we need to ask questions of those that sit just behind the first XI.
Sing up for The Arsenal. Let’s hope for a good game.