Another matchday for our boys and it’s Europa League action tonight to take centre stage of our minds.
I think the mindset of Arsenal fans I follow online is so fascinating with this one, you know, because there seems to be a big split between whether or not we ‘go for it’ and play the best team, or whether we ‘PLAY ALL THE KIDS’ and focus on the league. Of course the reality will most likely be a happy medium for Mikel Arteta’s selection choices tonight, but from my perspective I can only say that I want to go super deep – and possibly win – this trophy. It may be the second tier European trophy, it may be way less of importance from a financial perspective than the Champions League, but a trophy is a trophy and on my 40 years of living on this earth I have seen us win ONE European trophy in 1994 (The Cup Winners Cup). That was amazing but for a club the size of The Arsenal, that is mental when you think about it. So many English clubs have won more than us. I mean, bloody hell, the SCUM have won one more than us, which is mental when you think about it. Liverpool have 10, Chelsea have seven, United have six, the Scum have three, then there is a raft of clubs on two with us, including Villa, Forest, Newcastle, Leeds and West Ham.
This football club needs to have a better pedigree in Europe and that has to start with competitions like the Europa. That is why I hope Mikel takes it seriously enough tonight, without going full strength. Because let’s face it, as much as this competition will be amazing to win, the Premier League is ‘the big one’ for most of us.
But I don’t want you thinking that I don’t rate this competition super highly. At the beginning of the season, when getting in to the top four was the aim, I prized this competition above anything else. In fact, if you tell me ‘top four or the Europa’ in August, I am taking the Europa League trophy. I know life isn’t binary in choices like that, but because of our European history, I want us to win this.
So to tonight then, in which Arteta will have some selection decisions to make and I feel like he might be looking to do a blended approach for his starting XI. I think he picks Turner in goal, then I think he’ll give runs out to Tomiyasu and Tierney. That’s certainly what I hope because if anything happens to White or Zinchenko (And let’s not forget Zinchenko has missed a chunk of the season already through injury) then we need to have players whose engines are up and running and not starting up cold. So I’d give both of those full backs the nod, then I’d probably go for Gabriel and Holding. I’m not the biggest fan of Holding but I think Arteta likes having him around and him feeling like part of the group and giving he gave Kiwior the nod last week, I suspect he’ll give it to Rob this week.
Then in front of them I expect Jorginho to start and I also think he gives Xhaka the nod this evening. Then comes the discussion he’ll be wrestling with the most in his head, i.e:
“Who do I play in those front four positions?”
This is where I think he will go strong, so I am expecting him to opt for Saka, Martinelli and Trossard in the front three. We want to put Sporting under pressure, we need our best players out and we need to bag some goals against a sh*thouser of a ‘keeper in Adan. Then it is dependent on that right ‘eight’ and whether Arteta wants to go with Odegaard or Fabio Vieira in that position. He did well against Sporting in the first game and Arteta has been talking him up lately. He’s also the guy who was in front of the press yesterday and whilst I know that is no real indication of a player starting in a match, this feels like the sort of scenario in which he could come in.
As for Sporting Lisbon, they are without Coates (their captain) this evening, as well as Morita in midfield, due to suspension. however they have one of their better players in Ugarte back in midfield so perhaps they aren’t as weaker in the middle of the park as you’d think. But they don’t have the benefit of home support tonight and we should in that first leg we can hurt them. I would be surprised if we were as open as we were in the first leg defensively and on top of that, I think our players will up their game in front of the home crowd too. If we play to our full potential and ability then we should have enough to overcome them, but we need to be very wary of the threat and pace they have one the counter. Edwards had a good run at us last week, but with Gabriel and Tierney on that left hand side for us, I would like to hope they keep him a little more quieter than the licence he was given in Lisbon; Zinchenko roaming in field during the game and then Kiwior having to deal with big space, made it a little more of a fun time for Edwards than I’m hoping he gets tonight. But we shall see.
We need to keep momentum going at the moment, so winning tonight is important and I feel like we can do it with the team that I’ve outlined above, which also enables us to have fresher players available for Sunday’s game against a Crystal Palace side who played last night and lost to Brighton, so they will not have the benefit of being as fresh against us as they would have if they’d have had a week off.
That’s it from me for today – have a good one and if you are going tonight then sing up; I know I will be.
Catch you all tomorrow.