Enough of that Premier League stuff. We’ve been champions before. Even had an undefeated season once - you may have heard of it. We’ve had plenty of Champions League positions. But how many Europa League trophies line the halls of the Emirates? Exactly. And on Thursday Mikel Arteta refocuses his attention on correcting that egregious mistake and the one true goal of this season.
Yes, I know many fans would rather not even be in the Europa League at all and that it’s a constant reminder of how far the club has fallen in recent years. But it’s one of Arsenal’s best chances at a trophy this season, a way into the Champions League, and a chance for some of the backups or irregular starters to make their case for more minutes in the league.
So clear your Thursday afternoon once again, remind yourself how to find CBS All Access, and load up another round of redemption Pepe because it’s time to clinch first place in Group B.
Predicted Starting XI
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
- Bukayo Saka
- Folarin Balogun
- Emile Smith Rowe
- Granit Xhaka
- Dani Ceballos
- Héctor Bellerín
- Kieran Tierney
- Bernd Leno
Notes on the XI:
- Left Out: Callum Chambers
- Injured: David Luiz (head injury), Thomas Partey (thigh injury), Pablo Mari (saw his first minutes with the U23s last week), Gabriel Martinelli (returning to full training)
- Last time out Arteta surprised us with both Lacazette and Nketiah up top. It clearly worked with the Gunners walking away with a 3-0 result, but with Elneny and Kolasinac (likely) cleared from COVID-19 protocols we may see more of his traditional tactics.
- Now all that said, since Arsenal have already clinched a spot in the Knockout Rounds and should easily wrap up first place, he could opt for a big shift towards including more U23 players. Smith Rowe and Balogun are due a start, especially under these low stress circumstances, even if it’s the last group stage game next week. However, on the back of yet another Premier League loss, Arteta needs a controlling performance and victory. A shaky nil-nil at home because he dipped too far down the depth chart will only increase the tension heading into the North London Derby.
- The front of line of Pepe-Nketiah-Nelson should once again create and finish multiple chances on Thursday night. And we can safely expect the return of Maitland-Niles, Cedric, Mustafi and Runarsson to the starting XI.
- In the midfield Elneny was cleared for Sunday but works back into full fitness here against Rapid Wien. With Partey still sidelined, one from Xhaka, Ceballos and Willock will be starting again from the weekend. I expect Willock to get the spot after shining in the Europa League often this season and hedging that Arteta will opt for both Xhaka and Ceballos once again against Tottenham.
- On the backline with Luiz out, if Kolasinac is fit he slots in as the left CB with Holding possibly getting the extra workload on the right and then against Spurs a few days later. A better scenario would be if Callum Chambers is ready to start and plays alongside Mustafi, keeping both Gabriel and Holding fresh for the NLD.
- Looking at the the group table and knowing what is just days ahead there is no reason to risk Aubameyang, Lacazette, Saka, Ceballos, Tierney, Gabriel, Bellerin, Leno (and Holding) if Arteta can help it.
How to watch
Thursday (12/3) at 3:00 pm ET / 12:00 pm PT on CBS All Access.