Given that it’s matchday and the Management is still sound asleep in the bedroom, I thought I’d pop some pre-game thoughts from Memphis, as I haven’t really been doing much on here of late. I blame the fried food. It’s addled my brain and thinking processes. And I’ve had a lot of fried food. And beer.
Enough to wash away the bad taste left from another dull and dreary game at Old Trafford and whilst we didn’t lose, I’ve seen the general malaise at the performance and I guess it’s also been a handy excuse not to get too embroiled in the rage that’s going around. But tonight is a matchday and there’s nothing that expunged the bad taste of a performance than another performance, so I’m hopeful that at lunchtime today my time, 8pm back home, we’ll see an Arsenal team who are ready to give us back some excitement.
And the Europa League could, in theory, offer us some of that. After all we did see a great game in the League Cup against Forest and I suspect Emery will want to rotate plenty of players from the game on Monday evening. He’s already pretty much said that he’s committed to giving some of the younger players a go and this match offers them that opportunity. So for me I suspect we’ll see a line up which includes Martinez, Chambers, Mustafi, possibly Tierney and maybe we even get Hector Bellerin from the start. That will be exciting but I’ll also be interested to watch Chambers because if he plays in the middle of the defence and plays well then surely we’re at the point where he needs to be considered for the premier League games?
We can only hope. We can also only hope that Emery plays players in their natural positions, so if Torreira does start tonight, can we please have him in front of our back four and not playing as one of our attacking midfielders? This high press that Emery has him on is frustrating because it doesn’t make the most of his skill set and leaves us too open defensively. If he plays let’s have him sitting deeper tonight.
Of course if he doesn’t play then the question mark is over who sits in that deeper lying two. We have Willock who can play there and I mentioned Torreira, but he could go with Ceballos and then Özil in front of them. I’d be interested to see both of those two together but it does feel like that puts a lot of pressure on Willock to be the deep-lying defensive midfielder and we’ve seen this season that his strengths lie in his marauding forward running.
But Standard Liege will be thinking about how they can be compact and contain us and so my thinking on why I’d like to see Ceballos and Özil together is that both will look to get into spaces that will unsettle a team likely to play in a deeper block. So let’s use Özil and Ceballos’ skills to see if they can find spaces and balls for our attacking trio, of whom I suspect it will look quite youthful tonight, with Nelson, Saka and Martinelli all in the running for another start.
And I’d be quite happy with that. All three have something to prove, all three are looking good and played well against Forest, so why not give them a shot? The standard of opposition should be better too, so it will be another evolution in their footballing careers and it’d be interesting to see if they can step up.
Of course Emery is a cautious man and could look towards more of the senior players. Perhaps Pepe gets another run out, for example, or perhaps he looks at Xhaka in the base of the midfield to offer a more senior head? Whatever he chooses, the onus will be on us to go and get the result, because we want to get this Europa League group stage done and dusted as quickly as possible. Last season it was over in four matches and led to complete rotation by matchday five. This season I am hoping that the same can be said, but it would be nice for us to do it without playing the first team and risking injury, etc, to key players. So let’s hope Emery gives us plenty of rotation and let’s see Arsenal pick up another European three points this evening.
Catch y’all tomorrow. Maybe. If I haven’t been put into a fried food coma by then!