It’s our last game of the Europa League group stage tonight, and a win over FC Zurich would ensure we finish top of the group. We just have to match PSV’s result against Bodo/Glimt, but to make life easier, we just have to win and the job is done.
Last week’s loss in the Netherlands adds a bit of tension to this, but at home against the bottom of the group with -10 goals difference, you have to back down to do what is necessary. There will certainly be changes from the team that beat Nottingham Forest, and you can’t play this one without looking at the weekend when we go to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea, especially as it’s a mid-day start (thanks for that BT Sport). .
However, there was positive news from training yesterday, with Bukayo Saka taking part (I don’t think he should start tonight), while we also saw Mohamed Elneny and Oleksandr Zinchenko back with the group. Arteta said about fitness issues:
They’re in different stages, obviously. Mo had a long-term injury, but now he has recovered very well and has been training with the team for a week or two. Alex is very recent and has had two training sessions. Bukayo missed a session or two and was fine today.
It will be interesting to see if he considers Elneny fit enough to start, because with Granit Xhaka suspended for him, we’re not exactly flush with options in midfield. While I’m not as worried about playing too much as some people, it’s impossible not to care about Thomas Partey’s fitness given his record, so I’d be happier if he didn’t play tonight. Elneny at the base of midfield, with Albert Sambi Lokonga in the role of Xhaka would be one way to do it, assuming Mo is fit enough.
It also puts Sambi in a role he is generally more comfortable in, something Arteta hinted at in his press conference when asked about the Belgian in that deeper role which he has found difficult to deal with at times this season. :
That situation came about because we had Thomas out and then Mo, and we had to adapt Sambi’s position because he was our most natural player to do that. Now, with Mo’s return, we have another position open.
It’s a bit difficult to predict the team, because there will have to be some players that people would rather see fully rested than Chelsea. Reiss Nelson has earned a start on the right, but who plays on the left side of the attack? Could Nelson start there with Marquinhos on the right? Were Cedric’s minutes against Forest a precursor to his first start of the season? Which of Gabriel and William Saliba starts with Rob Holding?
I will certainly have a really competitive team. We missed the opportunity in the Netherlands last week and Thursday is the last chance to achieve our goal.
Anyway, let’s see. Once the teams are announced, I think I’ll turn everything off until kick-off. The Arsenal lineup discussion on Twitter could only get worse if Twitter’s new owner decided to get involved as well, and frankly, I’m having a hard time ignoring all of his Edgelord nonsense.
We’ll have the live blog for you and all things post-game on Arseblog News. Join us later for that.
Elsewhere, also from the pre-match press conference, are quotes from Gabriel Martinelli, who was asked about his future at Arsenal and the possibility of signing a new contract. He said:
“I am very happy at Arsenal. I’ve said it many times, this is my club, I love it here, I love the city, I love the club, I love everything about Arsenal. I want to stay, I’m very happy. I just need a pen.
Get that man a Montblanc. A parker. A Sheaffer. An Aurora. Damn, Edu, just head over to Holloway Road and pick up a Bic biro at a local shop. Or one of those pens that had four colors and you could choose which one to use. If it comes down to it, use a pen and ink, have the contract drawn up on parchment, and seal it with wax.
Seriously, if that’s your mindset, this shouldn’t be a problem at all. It feels like it’s a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’, and let’s cross our fingers that this and the other contracts we’re waiting for stay the same way.
PEN AND INK BABY!
Right, that’s all for now. See you later for the game.