Another Thursday night, another Europa League match, another reminder that Arsenal aren’t where we’d like them to be. This week, the Gunners find themselves in Serbia to take on Red Star Belgrade. The Red-Whites sit atop the Serbian SuperLiga, having conceded only 2 goals in 12 league matches so far this season.
Arsenal are coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to Watford that had a number of people, including Watford’s Troy Deeney, questioning Arsenal’s desire. Arsene Wenger responded, saying the comments weren’t justified and that he believes in his players. But actions speak louder than words, and a tough away win would do more than any press conference banter can to quiet the critics.
A win would also move Arsenal 5 points clear at the top of their group, virtually assuring qualification to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
Once again, all eyes will be on Jack Wilshere, who looked set to come on late against Watford only to be passed over in favor of Rob Holding when Laurent Koscielny was injured. Wilshere had one of his best games in a while against BATE Borisov, controlling the pace of game and creating chances for the Gunners. Another strong showing from Wilshere could mean his inclusion in the Premier League starting lineup sooner rather than later. Who knows, maybe Wilshere’s creativity is just what Arsenal need to jump-start its attack.
Arsenal’s starting 11 should be similar to the side that saw off BATE Borisov two weeks ago with one significant exception: Mathieu Debuchy has returned from the wilderness and is expected to feature for the Gunners. Debuchy recently played 45 minutes with the U-23 squad, and Wenger seems poised to reintroduce him to the first team. While I don’t expect his return to have much of a first team impact, adding a player to the rotation will help keep everyone rested. Debuchy will also provide veteran cover at right wingback, where the depth chart behind Héctor Bellerín is a bit thin.
On Red Star’s side of things, the Gunners will need to shut down Aleksandar Pešić, Richmond Boakye, and Mitchell Donald, who have accounted for half of Red Star’s league goals this season.
What are your expectations for the match? Will the Gunners right the ship or will Red Star send Arsenal to back-to-back defeats? Let us know in the comments!
WHAT: Red Star Belgrade v. Arsenal
WHEN: Thursday, October 19th, 10 AM PT, 1 PM EST, 6 PM BST
WHERE: Rajko Mitić Stadium, Belgrade, Serbia
US TV: Fox Sports 2
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