Earlier in the season I wrote a post about no European football, then lamented how when we were in the competition, we always seemed to suffer by playing opponents fresher in the league than us. And we have heard managers of Arsenal over the years talk about how the midweek game had the players a little jaded, which contributed – but was not an excuse for – a less than 100% performance. The blog I looked at earlier in the season took a look at Champions League and Europa League games and in it I looked at how often we play teams in Europe straight after they’d played in midweek. I don’t think there was one game. So I was a little grumpy at how we didn’t get a direct advantage against an opponent.
I’ve just realised that tonight Leicester are playing Rennes in the Europa Conference League knockout stage at home, so wouldn’t you know it, but we finally get a slight advantage on our opponents for the weekend in that our players will be tucked up at home whilst Leicester have to play the French side. It’s at home, which is a shame as the little bit of extra travel for them would have helped our cause, but my hope is that Brendon Rodgers has taken a proper look at the Europa Conference League and said “that’s where my eggs are now for European football next season”. Because winning that competition gets them back in to the Europa League for next season and looking at the teams left in that competition, you’d have to fancy your chances if you were Leicester. Marseille are a big draw but beatable and maybe you’d have a look at Roma, but overcoming Rennes puts them in to the quarter final and they play their first leg tonight, followed by the away leg next Thursday, so if there’s any resting or rotation that is needed, would he do it for us?
Looking at their team news and for us the good news is that Vardy looks to have injured himself last weekend against Burnley, which means he’ll be out for our game and apologies for seemingly celebrating an injured player, but given his record against us who can blame me? The other player they have out is Fofana with COVID but whether he’s back or not we’ll have to see, because Rodgers seems to think he will be. But looking at their team news for tonight there are a lot of players who appear to have been patched up to play like Maddison, Justin and Pereira – the latter won’t be risked so might play against us at the weekend but this is the time of the year when the volume of games start to pick up so this is where Arsenal need to make the lack of game time count.
And I think it is fair to say we are. My ol’ mate Giles posted a message on Twitter showing the impact of team performance of the ‘big’ sides after getting more than five days rest and it makes for good reading if you like to over-analyse everything like I do. Our record is certainly up there and looking at Leicester’s, it’s a little patchy. So on this Thursday ahead of the game, as I search desperately for reasons to think the odds could be swayed in our favour for the weekend, this is a positive I can draw.
In other Arsenal-related news, it was good to see Flo getting off the mark in a Boro shirt. By all accounts he looks like he’s settled in well and playing decent enough football, but for a striker you always judge yourself on goals and this will be important for him to get off the mark. He’s got at least 12 more games with which to make an impact – one of which is in the FA Cup – and hopefully he can continue to grow in stature up there, because I think it’d be nice to see him back next season and getting a bit more game time for The Arsenal. Imagine him taking up the Nketiah role as understudy behind two new strikers we bring in; he’ll hopefully get matches if we are – touch wood – back in Europe and that feels like a natural progression and evolution for him as he gets a decent loan under his belt this season, gets games in an Arsenal shirt in League and European competition next season, before we start to see if he can step up and challenge those new strikers to become our number one within the next four to five years.
There were some other players who also played in the loan watch this week but I won’t go over all of them at this stage, mainly because to my untrained eyes it doesn’t feel like any of them are as close as Balogun is to getting a run out in the first team. If you want to have a read, however, you can do so here on the club website.
There’s not much more going on with the first team at the moment. There’ll be a press conference tomorrow but I’ll be interested to keep half an eye on how Leicester get on today and to see how they play. But that aside, I’ll leave you to go about your daily bits and bobs and i’ll catch you tomorrow with whatever Arsenal-related nonsense pops in to my head.
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