I still can’t get my head around this Europa League lark I must say. All those years of sneering at Thursday night football, usually accompanied with a chuckle about Eastenders thrown in for good measure and here we are.
That said, I am a little excited and intrigued to see how we use this competition. I have always enjoyed the early rounds of the League cup because it gives you a chance to see something a little different. It gives you the chance to see different combinations and the odd talented youngster alongside more experienced team mates. So I guess I am hoping to see a little bit of that in this competition, especially in the group stages. I'm sure you can find a good number of free bets giving good odds on Arsenal getting out of this group so I fully expect us to rotate our way through this early stage of the competition.
I have spent too much time thinking of the line up over the last few days. We have too many attacking players that Arsène will want to play and not enough defensive players to rotate in.
Putting myself in Arsène’s shoes for a moment, he will want his senior players who are not in the first team to start the game.
So the likes of Theo Walcott, Oliver Giroud, Mohamed Elneny, Per Mertesacker and David Ospina will surely be in the 11.
Then there are the younger players he will want to give game time. Rob Holding (you know), Calum Chambers and Alex Iwobi.
Then there is Alexis Sanchez who is in need of sharpening up before Chelsea on Sunday, so I imagine that Arsène will want to give him a start before replacing him in the second half. My bet is 63 minutes should he start the game.
The last category is that of the players who are stuck in the departure lounge. Debuchy and Wilshere still have their bags packed but missed the flight out on deadline day. If neither start then it says quite a lot, especially for Jack Wilshere.
Arsène will have to make some decisions to make in the final third. I suspect Giroud, Walcott and Alexis will all start which means either Alex Iwobi will be on the bench unless Arsène experiments with Iwobi in midfield, something Arsène hasn’t done too often thus far.
The wing backs will be very interesting. Two of our left back/wing backs seem to be in our starting 11, which does not give us much flexibility when it comes to rotation. This would have been Kieran Gibbs territory but not anymore. I suspect we will have to play Kolašinac on Thursday and Sunday. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of the season because he can’t play in every competition and Nacho Monreal is no spring chicken.
On the right, I guess Arsène will have to choose between Reiss Nelson, Mathieu Debuchy and I guess Maitland-Niles.
Basically, I have absolutely no idea what Arsène is going to do tonight with the players at his disposal.
It will be interesting to see how the team performs tonight, it’s important that our squad players get plenty of games and are in good form because when the time comes for them to contribute in the important games, they will have to be ready.
I was going to add the predicted line up graphic but it’s a little pointless as there are so many possibilities. I'd love to see Alexis Sanchez light up the pitch and push for a starting place on Sunday. If Arsene does go with Iwobi in midfield, I'd love him to have a big performance in there to give us options going forward. Anything else? Ahh yes, I'd love to see Nelson take apart whatever left back they have on the pitch. I'd like to see Giroud reach 100 goals in total obviously, but I'd be up for 100 goals tonight also if you're offering. I guess I could keep going but that would be boring so let's just wait and see what happens.
After the Bournemouth victory at the weekend, let’s hope we can continue to rebuild our belief and confidence before Sunday.