It’s a match day of sorts today and it’s Arsenal at home to Qarabag in what is the most deaddest of dead rubbers you’re going to get.
And despite the fact that the Europa League was fun last season and we went deep in to it, I can’t help but look at the Group Stages last year and fire a few shrugged shoulders emojis out to the ether because there really is some dross in the competition. Half full stadiums for the big clubs, the smaller clubs getting beaten by rotated or youth XI’s, plus the farce that we had with a home team playing hundreds of miles away from their actual home.
Yep, the Group Stages feel very much like a penance you have to go through before you play the proper competition, kind of like doing your chores as a kid before you could go out and play football over the park.
Tonight might not feel like that to the youngsters who start in their home team stadium, but I’ll be surprised if we have 40,000 fans tonight as the Arsenal fans will probably avoid a cold night with nothing to play for. I’ll be there though. Hey, it’s a football match and it’s The Arsenal, plus I have a load of old school mates coming along with me to the game so it’ll be a good craic I reckon.
As for the team itself I think all of the youngsters who made appearances in the Ukraine have earned another stab tonight, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar team, maybe with the deliciousness that would be The Corporal Jenkinson at centre half. He played well against Vorskla a couple of weeks ago and with our central defensive woes stretching out to the weekend I suspect he’ll get some game time tonight. With that in mind I suspect it’ll be Cech in between the sticks, Lichtsteiner at right back, Jenkinson and Koscielny at centre half and Dominic Thompson at left back. It’s a heavily rotated defence and personally I’d have gone with Medley at centre half and saved Kos for Sunday, but perhaps Unai has a solution for the weekend because without our 33-year-Old skipper on Sunday we basically just have Nacho as the only real centre half available for the trip to Southampton.
Midfield will surely include a base of Elneny and Maitland-Nile’s and that means a three of Smith-Rowe, Willock and possibly even Mesut Özil starting tonight. I hope not because we want him fit and ready for Sunday. Perhaps he can play both but if you’re going to give me a choice I’d be giving him 25 minutes at the end of the game to ease him back in for Sunday.
If Özil doesn’t play then there’s always the option is Iwobi being given a shout and I wouldn’t be too averse to that I don’t think. His form has dipped of late and if he can perform for us against inferior opposition to regain a bit of confidence in all for it.
I’m also all for Nketiah getting another shout and hopefully getting off the mark through scoring tonight. Strikers feed off goals and one this evening will provide him with a good platform for the rest of the season. At a time in which we are missing Welbeck and heavily reliant on Auba and Laca in the first team, it’s important to have somebody as an understudy who has a bit of confidence about him. So we really could do with a goal tonight.
It’ll have a bit of a testimonial feel to it tonight I reckon and that necessarily isn’t a bad thing from the players, but let’s hope they can at least keep the unbeaten run going until Sunday. I’m liking not being pissed off because Arsenal have lost so let’s keep everything crossed we can maintain the form.
Catch y’all tomorrow.