Morning Gooners. One day down, another seven to go until we learn our fate and from what I hear this game is almost certainly viewed within the club as a watershed moment. Especially when it comes to summer plans.
If Champions League football is on the table for next season then everything changes, not only the price of season tickets, but of the transfer targets too.
Last night on the show Charlie dialled in and we were talking about the fact that there had essentially been two transfer target lists up and some players had already verbally agreed to join us, with the caveat being that opportunity for Champions League football, which will determine which list we work through to sign players. So it seems everything is on hold until that game. Could there be a one-off game that has been more important in recent memory?
I’d even put this upcoming Europa League game ahead of the Hull City FA Cup win in 2014. That match was vitally important because it was Arsenal getting back in to the swing of winning shiny silver trinkets again. This trophy means victory winning trophies but it will also define our status as a football club amongst the elite, with all the riches that brings as well, effectively doubling itself in its significance.
Can we have the fairytale ending though? Will we wave off Petr Cech with a European trophy to end his glittering career? Can Danny Welbeck – currently in a race for fitness playing in behind closed doors games – have an impact as one of the 12 subs we can name for the final?
I hope so. Danny has scored some important goals for us in recent years and as a player who isn’t fit but can potentially give us 10 minutes towards the end of a game I think it’s worth a punt. After all, you only have to look at our squad and the fact that we will probably name so many young players for the final, to see that a little experience won’t go a miss.
If we are going to field Aubameyang and Lacazette, as many of us expect we will, then without Welbeck it leaves us with just Nketiah as a striking option. Welbeck May have hardly played this season, but Nketiah has also only ever been a peripheral player and if you need to throw on an extra forward to chase a goal with ten minutes to go, isn’t it better to look towards the England international?
Think about the Leicester City home game a few years back. Last few minutes, ball into the box, tall athletic centre forward rise above everyone to head it home. Yes, ultimately we didn’t go on to win the league, but that’s the kind of instance that I want to see us have in a cup final and Welbeck is the kind of player I’d like to see leaping like a salmon to nod it home.
With 12 subs we can also afford to gamble on him. That many subs allows you to pick a whole other squad of options and so for Unai it’s worth it. If you think about it we could pick Leno, Lichsteiner, Mustafi, Guendouzi, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Willock, Elneny, Mavropanos (if fit), Saka, Nketiah and still have space for Welbeck in the squad. To me it doesn’t represent much of a gamble from the managers perspective so I think it’s worth doing.
And the indications of behind-closed-doors friendliest suggests to me that Arsenal feel the same.
Well, they might be forced into it, if Mkhitaryan can’t go and when you look at what the Azerbaijan ambassador to the UK said to the press yesterday then it’s a sad state of affairs. In what felt to me like a veiled threat he said that if Mkhitaryan wanted to ‘press the issue’ there would be a problem. I’m sorry, but a person in political power suggesting that Mkhitaryan is anything other than a footballer is frankly ludicrous. It also needs to be added to the very long list as to why this match should never have got anywhere near Baku but as usual, UEFA couldn’t give a monkeys about the majority of fans who want to go to a game, and now it seems they can’t really give a monkeys about the safety of players who are playing in the competition.
How has a country like this been able to host this competition? No infrastructure, effectively no realistic options of getting to the venue, can’t guarantee safety of players, poor human rights record, fans effectively rejecting the location by the fact tickets are most likely going on general sale, it’s all a total and utter mess and it’s the money men at UEFA who are the root cause.
And as fans we just have to suck it up. It’s appalling.
I’d like to say that the corrupt body that is UEFA can change but let’s all be realistic, that ain’t gonna happen any time soon, so there won’t be any holding of breath for your humble narrator here.
Anyway, I guess we just have to move on, hoping that some juicy Arsenal related content pops up today to distract us all.
Catch y’all tomorrow.