Morning Gooners, how we all doing? Ready for Thursday already? After that game on Sunday I am just eager for the next game and with a chance to progress in European competition at home at our grasp, I’m getting excited about the prospect. We did our business against Fulham for a tricky away game after an away trip to Lisbon and now we need to do the same on home soil in the space of four days from Thursday. But looking at that bench on Sunday, looking at the options coming back, my hope is that we can indeed compete on two fronts and it is where Arteta is going to have to earn his crust between now and the end of the season.

**Quick aside**

Congrats to Mikel, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo for winning the Football London awards manager, player and young player awards last night. I know some might scoff that it is ‘only’ London teams, but it is a nice recognition for the work that has been happening at Arsenal in the last 12-18 months and we should give a quick hand clap of appreciation for the three of them, before everyone turns their focus back on the Europa and Premier League. Which I think is exactly what will be happening.


Back to the real business though, which is the decision making that Mikel will have to be thinking of this week in terms of how he moves around his chess pieces in the coming weeks and, specifically for the duration of how long we are in the Europa League for. I was listening to the always excellent ArsenalVision this morning as I was on my morning run and, as I was puffing away, I thought a conversation they had towards the end of the podcast was interesting. They were talking about how this period of the season is going to be tough and debating whether or not we really need the Europa League in our lives. Now, you should listen to the nuances of the discussion rather than take my exact spoken word on the matter, because I don’t think they were bombing out the Europa League at all. It is a trophy, those shiny silver trinkets are the reason we all watch football and winning any of them give you an immense amount of pleasure. But the conversation was about whether or not it would have an impact on our Premier League, particularly as we get to that scary April period in which we have a heck of a lot of very tough games we have to get through.

The guys talked about looking at the bench earlier in the pod though and that is why I am hopeful that yes, we can go for both trophies and yes, we can go deep in the Europa League. But I do agree with the sentiment of the discussion on the podcast, which was that we probably can’t go in to Europa League games on a Thursday and then play the same team on a Sunday. It just won’t work at such a crunch time in the season. But looking at that bench on Sunday – just looking at it – gave me the kind of hope that we can do this in both comps, it really did. Whether or not Mikel will actually make many rotated changes this week remains to be seen, but as of now you can’t argue that we don’t have the tools in our team to be able to cope with some rotation on both Thursday and Sunday and hopefully come out with two wins.

For example on Thursday you could bring in Turner, Tomiyasu, Tierney, Jorginho, Fabio Vieira, then play Trossard through the middle with Martinelli and Saka out wide and I think STILL have enough to overcome Lisbon. Let’s not forget that we were better with them with a raft of changes last week, having travelled across Europe and being in a more hostile environment than the one at home. Heck, I’d even be tempted to chuck Nelson in for Martinelli. But my point is that we CAN rotate and still – I believe – have enough to overcome our European opponents. They are good, they will pose us threats, but we can be sharing minutes across players to keep them fresh and that will certainly help when we play Palace on Sunday.

Maybe you even spread the minutes, regardless of the score line, so you bring in the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Ben White, maybe a Holding or Kiwior for the last 20 – 30 minutes? The point I’m trying to make is that we have the personnel to come in and ensure that we don’t need to feel like we have to play the same players again and again and again, because they are the ‘first XI’. And I do think that Mikel has much more of a trust in his squad than he did perhaps even at the start of the season. You can see by the way he makes his substitutions; they aren’t just token moves, in my opinion. I genuinely believe that Arteta is trying to keep players with minutes under his belt and that is why we have seen him so eager to get Tomiyasu on in as many games as possible, or ensuring that Trossard and Fabio Vieira gets on to the pitch. And, as ESR becomes more match fit, I think he’ll do the same with him too. I have no evidence to back it up, it is just a feeling that I have, that Arteta is desperate to ensure these players are used and keep getting minutes as much as possible. And that’s a good thing. It means that if/when we do get injuries, the drop down is not as pronounced. I mean, of course if you’re going from Partey to Jorginho, there is going to be a drop, but it isn’t as massive as…say…an Elneny or Sambi, so I think we have a core of about 16 players that Arteta wants to keep interested, keep their engines ticking over by getting minutes. But he has to be able to give some of those guys those extra minutes and the Europa League is the chance to do it.

Food for thought on a Tuesday morning, but what do you think? How are you thinking he should play out rotation in the Europa League?