Academic Fixture Sees Kos and the kids (and maybe Mesut?)

Preview of this evening’s Europa League home game v Qarabag

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Arsenal made light work of Qarabag in Azerbaijan

The usual five talking points ahead of today’s Europa League group stage match at home to Qarabag…

Kos is back!
Going forward, With Arsenal’s short-term defensive crisis (Sokratis and Mustafi suspended for Southampton away, Holding and Mavrapanos injured), the club captain’s return to match action is timely. One imagines, with the weekend in mind, he might only play the opening 45 minutes. I would certainly put a large wager on his not completing the full game, with a chance for one of the younger centre backs from the Under 21s to get some game time replacing Koscielny. With the games about to come thick and fast, it must be hoped the number 6 remains fit and available.

And so is Ozil…
Mesut Ozil is in the squad of 18 for this game. There is little point in him being saved as a match-saving name from the bench given there is nothing on this match aside from Arsenal’s unbeaten sequence, so one imagines he will start. And the reason for him to take part in this game is surely to give him a little match fitness after his not playing for a month – his last appearance came in the 1-1 home draw against Wolves. Whether or not Ozil’s back injury was a way of masking the reality that the German superstar had fallen out with the manager we do not know. What is obvious though is that Ozil is no longer a guaranteed starter. Reputations count for less than form under Emery. Not a situation Ozil was familiar with under the previous manager.

Bring on the kids!
It would be no huge surprise to see the likes of Cech, Jenkinson and Elneny play. But that leaves room for more youngsters than have appeared before to start. It’s almost certain that Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah will start. But after that Unai Emery has the choice between blooding more youngsters or using more familiar names, such as Sokratis, Guendouzi and Iwobi. Given what’s at stake and how poor Qarabag are, I’d like to see how the youngsters fare as opposed to watching players I have seen plenty of time before. Is there any chance Arsenal could lose this game?

The Unbeaten Run
It is significant psychologically, but ultimately, it’s more important in the Premier League than a group stage Europa League outing. Will the team get knocked backward by a shock defeat this evening? Probably not. However, my feeling is that aside from the four certain younger starters, the rest of the kids will have to take their opportunities to impress as subs. Emery tends to use these matches to keep lesser used first team squad members fit, and this should ensure no upset this evening.

The Attendance
A chilly Thursday evening in mid-December. Christmas party season. A meaningless fixture. Yours truly is suffering from a cold and I will admit the only reason I am attending this evening is because I have to so some promo work in return for the support of for The Gooner this season. Otherwise I’d be in the warm trying to get better. Still, for those season ticket holders who are swaying about going, it’s a chance to welcome back the club captain, see if Ozil can work some magic against lesser opposition and enjoy watching some potential future stars. What’s not to like? In reality, I foresee a crowd of around 25,000, with marginally more than one in every two seats left unused. It promises to be a surreal atmosphere.

A comfortable 3-0 win to Arsenal, mirroring the scoreline when the teams met in Azerbaijan, is my prediction, with a goal for Eddie Nketiah. And my cold being worse than it is this morning…

If you fancy a flutter…
Our gaming partners are launching a The Gooner has teamed up with this season, and they are launching a free to enter £50,000 prize pool Christmas fantasy football game. You do have to register with Fansbet to take part, and if you do, select The Gooner Fanzine as your ‘branch’ when signing up as an Arsenal fan. If you subsequently decide to have a bet at some time in the future, 50% of any profits Fansbet make from your bets go towards maintaining the fanzine.


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  1. Bard

    Dec 13, 2018, 15:35 #112690

    It will be interesting to see how these kids develop. For financial reasons if nothing else they are going to get more of an opportunity to establish themselves. Who knows how good some of them can become with proper coaching.