The normal five talking points ahead this evening’s Europa League group stage game hosting Vitoria Guimaraes
The second stringers are more fun to watch, right?
It’s hard to argue that Unai Emery’s Premier League sides have provided more entertaining football than his cup teams. Now it’s possible that this is down to the quality of the opposition, I’ll grant you, but the reality is that watching the ‘stiffs’ has proved for some enjoyable evenings on the three occasions we have seen them play so far. Which means that those fans holding Arsenal football tickets should be in store for a few goals this evening – hopefully for the home side.
The Bellerin – Tierney conundrum
You’d imagine the two (theoretically first choice) full backs will both play 90 minutes this evening. Which then begs the question as to why they were not fielded for the match against Sheffield United – a more important game at this stage of the season than the visit of Vitoria. I will give Emery some leeway on Bellerin if he does not play the full match, but after the international break, why didn’t the head coach pick his strongest eleven at Bramall Lane? And if the two full backs both complete 90 minutes, can we assume they will be rested on Sunday and return to action at Anfield for the Carabao Cup next Wednesday? It just has a feel like the Madness of King Unai from here. Be good to see them play this evening though.
Surely, time for Mesut
Now listen up. Emery rotates. He gives all his players game time by using the ‘reserves’ for the cup competitions. So he’s got to play Ozil this evening, not least because of the lack of creativity so evident on Monday evening. Sure, Dani Ceballos played only 45 minutes, but you’d think he will now start against Palace at the weekend, given he was the one player who looked like he wanted to drive the team forward against Sheffield United. So if Ozil does not get a run out, it really has the feeling of the bridges being burned. It can’t go on. More to the point, if the number 10 has any sense of professional pride, he will put in the kind of performance which will require Emery to genuinely consider what he can once again contribute to the first eleven. A lot of ifs and buts there, and we wait the announcement of the teams this evening as the first indication of what lies ahead.
David Luiz will not play against one of his previous clubs
The Brazilian centre back actually played for this evening’s opposition 55 times in 2006 and 2007 when he first arrived in Europe, and was bought by Benfica after impressing for Vitoria. It’s unlikely Luiz will encounter anyone from the club this evening that was there then, unless the kitman has been retained all this time, but as links between Arsenal and Guimaraes go, there aren’t too many. You want another? Vieira is Vitoria’s head coach! Ok, ok, not that one, but Ivo Vieira – no, never heard of him either. Moving swiftly back to the topic of central defenders, what we are likely to see tonight is another outing for the clean sheet duo of Rob Holding and Shkodran Mustafi. The more I think about this, the more I think it might just be worth Emery switching his teams around and the Premier League eleven playing tonight…
Count the crowd?
I’ve just checked the Arsenal website and this indicates the game this evening is sold out. Now this might actually simply mean that the deadline has passed for them to be able to sell tickets but have tons unsold. I am writing this at 11am on the morning of the game. We’ll see this evening with a simple glance at the Clock End Upper Tier as to whether or not the match by match seats have indeed all been snapped up. The prices are certainly far more reasonable than even Grade C Premier League matches. One thing though, is sure as eggs is eggs. Season ticket holders will stay away in their droves, as they generally do for the earlier stages of this competition. It’s going to be a dank evening after a day of rain. I am an advocate of changing the football calendar so we begin in March and wrap up in October, and cram all the games into those eight months. Having said that, the current calendar allows a maximum three months between the end of the competitive (club) football season and the first ball kicked in anger in August. So they can do all that pre-season stuff in February and we can enjoy summer evening football – now we are talking! I’ll hibernate during the winter or find some way of decamping to Tenerife. Sorry, should have issued a stream of consciousness alert before that.
Difficult to see anything but a home win given Arsenal’s form in the Europa League so far this season. Vitoria have lost at home to Eintracht Frankfurt and away to Standard Liege – two sides the Gunners have beaten comfortably. Gabriel Martinelli has scored two goals in each of his two full matches at the Emirates. I wouldn’t bet against him scoring again this evening. I’ll go for a comfortable 3-0 home win, and a smidgen of pressure off Unai Emery, at least until Sunday.
The October edition of the monthly (original) Gooner podcast can be listened to and downloaded here
Buy the new issue of The Gooner
The current issue of The Gooner can be bought from our online store on this page
Subscribe to The Gooner
If you wish to subscribe to receive every issue of The Gooner by post, UK and abroad options are on this page.