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By Bulldog Drummond
“Mikel Arteta will not sacrifice Europa League for Premier League title chase” announced the Guardian, so we can expect a fairly solid Arsenal team tonight – assuming they have got that right.
In a separate article, they add, “They have not travelled light for their first knockout tie of the year. Arsenal arrived in Lisbon with a strong squad and assertions from their manager that winning is infectious.
There is also the point made that, “Part of the logic for retaining a healthy number of regulars is that fielding essentially separate sides for league and cup would not necessarily promote unity or send the right message,” and this message is contained in an increasing number of commentaries being circulated about the unity of the Arsenal team – so I imagine that was to be found in the press conference.
However to balance this, the likes of Rob Holding, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson and Kieran Tierney, all want to feel they are part of the show, and so do need some games as well.
For the game in the Europa group stages, against PSV Eindhoven away, with which tonight’s match can be compared in terms of importance, Arsenal’s team was
Takehiro Tomiyasu Rob Holding William Saliba Kieran Tierney
Granit Xhaka Fábio Vieira Albert Sambi Lokonga
Gabriel Martinelli Eddie Nketiah
Arteta’s response to talk of who plays and how often was summed up in this statement, “Being fair in football is very difficult. You have to be really good at communicating your decisions to help players understand what you do, but all the time you have to think for the best of the team. We want everybody to feel important.”
The Evening Standard tells us that “Eddie Nketiah, Leandro Trossard and Kieran Tierney are all sidelined”. They, therefore, predict that “Gabriel Martinelli may have to lead the line, with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe likely to play either side of him.” They also add, “Goalkeeper Matt Turner should come in for Aaron Ramsdale, while Takehiro Tomiyasu may start in the absence of Tierney through illness.
And so they come up with
White, Holding, Gabriel, Tomiyasu;
Odegaard, Jorginho, Xhaka;
Saka, Martinelli, Smith Rowe
Now I doubt that anyone at Football London reads Untold Arsenal, but it is interesting that after all our criticism and sarcastic comments, they have suddenly stopped telling us the fantasy story that they are using a Supercomputer to predict things, and instead have said that they are now using FIFA 23. A bit of a come down but they say they have “updated the squads with the latest injuries and suspensions. Sporting Lisbon’s stadium is not available in FIFA 23, so the game was played at the Emirates Stadium.” So, not quite 100% simulation then.
Their team was
Tomiyasu, Holding, Kiwior, Zinchenko;
Jorginho, Vieira, Xhaka;
Nelson, Martinelli, Smith Rowe.
So a debut for Jakub Kiwior who played 39 times for Serie A side Spezia, before signing a four-year deal.
White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko;
Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe;
And they predict a 1-1 draw, just to make it interesting back in London next week.
Radio Times predicts exactly the same team. They suggest a 1-0 win to Arsenal adding, “The midfield battle could prove crucial as Sporting are light in the engine room so Granit Xhaka and Jorginho are fancied to take charge of the game. Sporting are generally good value on their own patch, but they fell short against Porto and failed to beat FC Midtjylland at the Estádio José Alvalade last month. Arsenal are fancied to nick a win.”
So there we have it. I rather think it could be an Arsenal win given the momentum we have from the last few games…
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That makes 12 goals for and four against by my calculations – although I am often wrong with the maths. But that should make it 3-0 if we keep up that approach, so I’ll hope for that.
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