It’s our final Europa League group game this evening, 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 uncomplicated, just win and the job is done.
Last week’s defeat in Holland adds a little bit of stress to this one, but at home against the side bottom of the group with a -10 goal difference, you have to back yourself to do what’s necessary. Undoubtedly there will be changes from the side that beat Nottingham Forest, and you can’t play this one without half an eye on the weekend when we go to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea – especially as it’s a midday kickoff (thanks for that BT Sport).
There was positive news from training yesterday though, with Bukayo Saka taking part (not that I think he should start this evening), while we also saw Mohamed Elneny and Oleksandr Zinchenko back with the group. Arteta said of fitness issues:
They are at different stages obviously. Mo had a long-term injury but he has recovered now in a really good way and has been training with the team for a week or two now. Alex is just very recent and he’s had two training sessions. Bukayo just missed one or two sessions and was fine today.
It will be interesting to see if he deems Elneny fit enough to start, because with Granit Xhaka suspended for this one, we’re not exactly replete with midfield options. While I’m not as concerned about overplaying as other people are, it’s impossible not to worry about Thomas Partey’s fitness given his record, so I’d be happier if he didn’t play this evening. Elneny at the base of midfield, with Albert Sambi Lokonga in the Xhaka role would be one way to go – assuming Mo is fit enough.
It also puts Sambi in a role he’s generally more comfortable in, something Arteta hinted at in his press conference when asked about the Belgian in that deeper role he’s found hard to deal with at times this season:
That situation arose because we had Thomas out and then we had Mo out, and we had to adapt the position of Sambi because he was our most natural player to do so. Now with Mo coming back, we have another position open.
It’s a bit hard to predict the team, because there are going to have to be some players in it that people would prefer to see completely rested ahead of 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?
Certainly I will have a really competitive team out there. We missed the chance in Holland last week and Thursday is the last opportunity to achieve our goal.
Anyway, let’s see. Once the teams are announced, I think I’ll switch off everything until kick-off. Arsenal line-up discussion Twitter could only be made worse if Twitter’s new owner decided to get in on the act too, and frankly I’m having a hard enough time ignoring all his edgelord nonsense as it is.
Elsewhere, also from the pre-game press conference, are quotes from Gabriel Martinelli who was asked about his future at Arsenal and the prospect of signing a new contract. He said:
“I’m very happy at Arsenal. I said it many times, this is my club, I love to be 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 to get a pen.”
Get that man a Montblanc. A Parker. A Sheaffer. An Aurora. Goddam it, Edu – just nip down to the Holloway Road and pick up a Bic biro from a local shop. Or one of those pens that had four colours on it and you could choose which one to use. If it comes right down to it, use a quill and ink, have the contract drawn up on some parchment and sealed with wax.
In seriousness, if that’s his mindset, this shouldn’t be any kind of problem. It feels like it’s a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’, and fingers crossed this and the other contracts we’re waiting on go the same way.
QUILL AND INK BABY!
Right, that’s it for now. Catch you later for the game.