We go into the game devoid of any form after four defeats in a row and with performances that seem to get progressively worse with each game. Our only remaining route to success this season is the Europa League and winning it is the only way we will qualify for the Champions League next season too. That might seem like an incredibly unlikely scenario at the moment, but it’s one we have to hope can occur.
To make matters worse Alexandre Lacazette is injured for tonight and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ineligible so our striking options are severely limited. Danny Welbeck is the most likely candidate for the role, but to say he has been poor since his latest return from injury is a massive understatement and I just don’t think he’s up to the task. There is a train of thought that young Eddie Nketiah might get the nod and it’s a choice I think might just be bold enough to pay off, but I would be very surprised if Arsene Wenger chose anyone other than Welbeck to play up front.
Both Hector Bellerin and Aaron Ramsey were rested for the debacle at Brighton on Sunday although Bellerin did come on late on and I would imagine we will see both of them in from the start tonight. With Nacho Monreal injured it means Sead Kolasinac will probably play on the left unless Ainsley Maitland-Niles plays, but he seems to have fallen out of favour since he got 45 minutes in his favoured central midfield role against Ostersund a couple of weeks ago. David Ospina will be back in his usual goalkeeping role for cup games and he surely can’t do much worse than Petr Cech did against Brighton.
I would like to see us set out to keep things tight like we did away to Chelsea in the league and the Carabao Cup. That tactic worked well in both games when we came out with two respectable 0-0 draws and that would be a perfectly acceptable result tonight. If we’re going to do that tonight the players will have to work their socks off and that’s something that we haven’t seen far too often this season.
We have it in us though and we have to hope the players realise this is their only hope of any glory this season and can raise their game accordingly. If they can work hard and give their all from first minute to last the result will be a lot more acceptable no matter what it is. Even a one goal defeat would leave us still in the tie ahead of the second leg next week and we have a pretty good record at home this season despite our recent results.
It’s an awful lot to expect from players who have let us down time after time, but as a fan you need that hope and you never want your team to lose no matter what. The manager has seemed utterly incapable of getting his players up for games or of changing things in game when it’s not working, but he has to try to influence their performance tonight somehow. We have had some fantastic away wins in Europe under Wenger over the years and tonight would be the perfect time for another one. I have little to no expectation of a good result, but I will always live in hope until the players prove me wrong at least.
That’s it for today.
See you tomorrow.