Updated [10/21]: While we won’t have official news on Holding’s injury until later today, reports indicate he is out for a couple of weeks. That makes leaving Sokratis and William Saliba out of the Europa League squad even tougher. That forces Gabriel and David Luiz to play again on Thursday and then Sunday or for Mikel Arteta to gamble even further in the back. I’ve dropped Holding and brought Xhaka into the midfield, pushing Willock further forward. Gabriel is into the starting XI for Saliba’s spot and David Luiz is on the bench.
Saturday against Manchester City wasn’t ideal, but the only negative results so far this season are away defeats against Liverpool and City. Not unexpected and not bad considering where Arsenal and Mikel Arteta are in this project. The attack struggled again as the team set up to limit City’s chances, but now it’s time to move on, because...
Welcome back to the Europa League! Alright everyone settle down, it’s just the start of this long campaign towards European glory. Okay, maybe it’s not that big of a deal and some Arsenal fans wish we weren’t playing on Thursdays at all. But am of the mind that I want to win in every competition we are in. Plus the Europa League offers a chance for the backups and younger players to get starting minutes.
For the most part Arteta will want to split his squad into two different starting XIs to traverse this Premier League / Europa League Thursday to Sunday schedule. Here’s my starting XI for Thursday as Arsenal travel to Austria and the Allianz Stadion.
Predicted Starting XI
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Bukayo Saka
- Nicolas Pepe
- Thomas Partey
- David Luiz
- Bernd Leno
Notes on the XI:
- Left Out: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Dani Ceballos, Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin
- Injured: Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Mari, Gabriel Martinelli & Calum Chambers.
- Yes, this feels a bit like the Arsenal Hodge-Podge XI. Some youth, some clear backups, and some new faces.
- Several of this 11 started together this past weekend for the Arsenal U23s against Manchester United’s U23 side - Nelson, Smith Rowe, Willock & Cedric. That team also played the same general formation that the senior squad has been using lately - three centerbacks with two wingbacks or wide midfielders and a front three.
- It’s time we see Alex Runarsson as the Europa League competition should be his. Adding in Maitland-Niles, Cedric, Kolasinac, Eleney & Nketiah seems like a safe six players to start against Rapid Wien.
- In midfield, do you go with Joe Willock or try to give Thomas Partey more time to bed into the squad? I’d rather have Partey as a sub on Thursday, if needed, and set him up for a chance to start on Sunday instead. On the back line you’d rather have a true CB in there with Gabriel, but Kolasinac is fresh and I really don’t want to push David Luiz three matches in eight days when Arsenal is so limited at CB.
- As for the front line, Willian truthfully probably gets the nod on the right, but I’d like to see Reiss Nelson get a chance. Much like Runarsson, this competition needs to be where players such as him, Willock, Smith Rowe and Saliba get senior playing time and have the chance to make their case for Premier League minutes. On the left, there is no need to play Aubameyang and again you’d rather save Saka for Sunday to line up as the LM/LWB. The alternative of Willian and Nelson could land over here.... or let’s be more optimistic and see Smith Rowe get his first action of the season for the senior team. There is a lot of excitement about his potential and now that he isn’t going out on loan this season he needs regular minutes at this level.
How to watch
Thursday (10/22) at 12:55 pm ET / 9:55 am PT on CBS All Access.