Thursday, 20 September 2018

Arsenal v FC Vorskla: Europa League Preview

With three Premier League wins in a row behind them Arsenal make the jaunt into Europa League football again tonight when FC Vorskla come to the Emirates Stadium. I can’t profess to knowing too much about tonight’s opponents and no team can be taken too lightly in European football as City learned to their expense last night. Whatever our opponents might be like we are again one of the favourites to win the trophy and we have a manager who knows what it takes to do it.

Arsene Wenger used the group stages to blood young players and give game time to those more senior players who weren’t getting it last season. I expect Unai Emery to do exactly the same this season with the team gradually improving as we go further into the competition. He has plenty of good players on the bench at the moment and he should add them to a few youngsters who could do with a game too.

We can expect to see Bernd Leno make his debut in goal after we spent so much money on him in the summer and I'm looking forward to seeing how he copes with how the manager wants the team to play. Petr Cech is struggling with the ball at his feet at times, but it seems we bought Leno because of his ability to use his feet among other things. If it goes well for him tonight I still don't expect him to dislodge Cech for a while yet, but the day must surely be coming.

In defence injuries mean we might have to play Nacho Monreal and one of either Shokdran Mustafi or Sokratis Papastathopoulos alongside Rob Holding and Stephan Lichsteiner who will be making his full debut tonight. Lichsteiner is a very strong defender who would get in a lot of Premier League teams, but Hector Bellerin will probably keep his place due to his youth and his attacking ability. It's good to know we have a player of Lichsteiner's quality available if Bellerin is injured or has problems with his form.

In midfield we should get to see the full debut of Lucas Torreira and he's a player who must be chomping at the bit for his first start. He has been very impressive in his substitute appearances so far and he has to make a first team place his own very soon for the good of the team. As much as I like Matteo Guendouzi I think Torreria has the ability to drive the team forward from midfield and he is exactly what we need in the team at the moment.

We should also see Mohamed Elneny get his first chance to show what he can do this season while Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will probably play too as they didn't start at Newcastle last Saturday. It looks like a pretty strong midfield to me and certainly one which should be able to dominate the game. I wouldn't be surprised if Torreira doesn't last the 90 minutes with Sunday's game against Everton on the manager's mind.

That should leave Danny Welbeck to lead the line with Emile Smith-Rowe playing somewhere between the midfield and attack unless the manager decides to pick Eddie Nketiah instead. I'm a big fan of Nketiah and I think he has a very exciting future in the game, but it's very hard for a young player to break into a team with strikers like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette ahead of him. I'm a big fan of Smith-Rowe too and from what we have seen before I don't think either player would be overawed tonight.

Hopefully we can get the campaign off to a good start in front of a fairly good crowd, but the Europa League group stages are hardly the things dreams are made of. We need to get back to the main table of the Champions League as soon as possible for the good of the club and for the money it brings in which cannot be overstated. It's much easier to attract top class players to the club with the promise of Champions League football and the longer we're out of it the harder it will become to get back in. One way to do it is to win the Europa League of course and we most certainly have a manager who knows how to do just that.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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