I don’t really care that the Timy Totts and Scousers are in a bigger competition than us; seeing them lose is pleasurable in any competition and so to witness that ‘orrible lot concede four at home to a Barca team that hasn’t been in the greatest of form, is mighty pleasurable.
We may not have Europe’s premier competition to contend with during the week, but at least we’re in one where we know we have a fighting chance of winning it, because you’d have to say the Totts don’t look like that so much right now.
So a little schadenfreude on a Thursday morning is a-ok with me.
For us it’s the Europa League this evening and despite my protestations on the socials and in the odd blog or two this week, it looks like we’re taking a pretty strong squad to the farthest flung corner of Europe for tonight’s game.
Nacho, Laca, Mesut, Hector, Torreira; all of them boarded the plane and whilst I admire how El Boss is taking no chances and also his staunch assertion that the team will be absolutely fine on Sunday at Fulham, it makes me nervous about that weekend game. I’ve seen a few comments online to suggest that perhaps we’ve been conditioned to see these players so wrapped up in cotton wool that we don’t realise that they’re professionals and should be able to handle it.
Perhaps that’s the case but in elite sport and where every team is looking at the ‘marginal gains’ that are the difference in Premier League football, wouldn’t it be better to just not take the chance?
Still, it is what it is and what we have to hope is that certain players are very much “break glass in case of emergency” and on the bench only should we need them.
Perhaps Unai just wants to get to 10 points as quickly as possible and that I can understand and tonight we’ll see whether or not that plan looks like it will be a reality.
The reality is that we should beat Qarabag, even with what we hope is heavy rotation, because we have a better squad and better players. But we need to see an Arsenal team that is up for it because these types of games are the ol’ cliché for clubs like the Azerbaijanis – a cup final.
For us it’s an opportunity to keep the winning momentum in to the weekend and so in terms of the team I would hope that we see Leno in goal – who needs as many games as possible right now – followed up by a back four of Lichsteiner, Sokratis, Holding and Kolasinac. Holding is another player who should be getting a chance to impress because another good game will mean a serious selection dilemma on the horizon for Emery. If I had to go with gut I’d say Mustafi would still start at the weekend against Fulham should those two play this evening, but a good game tonight by Holding and surely the German is skating on the proverbial thin ice.
Which would be terrifying for Mustafi because he struggles to stand up long enough on green grass.
The midfield has to be Elneny and Guendouzi and in front of them I’d be inclined to tell Smith-Rowe to show us what he’s got. Mkhitaryan hasn’t travelled, Özil should be rested, Iwobi should be wide with Welbeck, so the young Englishman playing alongside so many first teamers and squad players can only be a good thing.
Up top I’d give Nketiah a shout but I suspect the manager will go with Lacazette up top and if things go according to play like they did against Vorskla, take him off with 30 minutes to go with Sunday in mind.
I’ve not done any research on Qarabag, I’m not going to pretend I know their style of play or how they intend on giving us a bloody nose, nor have I any idea of who their danger men are. But what I will say is that Emery clearly thinks they pose enough of a threat to bring out some of his big guns for this game so he’s clearly not taking this game lightly.
Unless he’s said to some of the players “screw this, if I have to go, you lot do too”.
What would be nice to witness come 6pm is a good start. At the weekend yet again we had a Watford side that outplayed us in the first and it was only after the break that we got our sh*t together.
I’m sure Unai is wary of this as well though to be fair. They have the seemingly limitless reels and reels of data and so he’ll be acutely aware that there’s an apprehension about our game that we need to take corrective action on. We can start that tonight with a strong opening skirmish against the Azerbaijani team.
Catch you tomorrow with a match review on what transpired in Baku.