Arsenal are still in two competitions this season - the Premier League and the Europa League. This week, and presumably as long as they remain in the European competition, Mikel Arteta will be faced with the difficult decision of lineup-picking and squad rotation for the Thursday-Sunday-Thursday match schedule. Most players can’t do 90 minutes in three consecutive matches that close together. Or they can, but it pushes their bodies into fatigue such that they are more likely to get hurt.
So what do you do if you are Mikel Arteta? Which competition do your prioritize?
It’s a bit difficult to suss out what he should do without complete information. We don’t know what the true internal expectations are that are coming down from on high at the club, and we don’t know what Arteta has been told are the acceptable and unacceptable outcomes from this season. Obviously if he’s been told he’ll lose his job if Arsenal aren’t in Europe next season, he’d probably prioritize the Premier League over the Europa right now.
But I don’t think that’s the case, and I’m going to assume that he’s more or less free to manage the rest of this year’s schedule as he sees fit. So what do you think he’ll do?
I think he’s all-in on the Europa League, perhaps to the detriment of the Premier League. I think he’s going to set up his rotation and selections so that he has his absolute strongest lineup available for the Europa League matches and is really going to try to win that competition. We saw last season that Arsenal are a very good cup side, and on their day, I think they can more than hang with all of the teams left in the EL. For what it’s worth, Arsene Wenger thinks Arsenal are the favorites to win the competition.
I think that’s the right call. It’s a risk, but it’s the right one to take. It starts today. Let’s go.