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Why Arsenal really need a full-blown second XI in the coming season

By Tony Attwood

As others have pointed out, the forthcoming season’s league fixture list has not been kind to us.

First off there is the issue of what happens after the Europa League matches on Thursdays, with us playing on a Sunday.

  • After the first Europa match we have Chelsea away
  • After the second we have Brighton at home
  • After the third we have Everton away
  • After the fourth Manchester City away
  • After the fifth it is Burnley away
  • And finally after the sixth it is Southampton away.

Now that is going to put one hell of a strain on the team  especially since (obviously) three of those Europa matches will be away, which is why we need a “25” squad that is full of genuinely first team players all of whom we would feel quite happy about using.   With such a squad and a good number of under 21s, we could virtually put out two different XIs.

That would mean that for the Europa games we might well be seeing a regular slot not just for the reserve keeper.   It doesn’t mean the whole team is a second XI, but a regular rotation of such players, rather than an attempt to keep playing the same first team could be highly beneficial.

We could for example see a second XI of (by way of example)


Maitland-Niles Holding Mertesacker Gabriel Gibbs

Coquelin Wilshere

Welbeck Giroud Theo

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Santi Cazorla has not been included as I am not sure when he is coming back.   Also not used is Le Jeff, Elneny and Pérez (whom everyone tells me is leaving); such players as these who are fit would also be in the team along with the reserve keeper.

Having looked at this I then thought it might be interesting to see what happens in the two months that have, in some seasons, caused us difficulty:

In November we have

  • Europa League
  • Manchester City away,
  • Tottenham at home,
  • Europa League
  • Burnley away
  • Huddersfield at home

which obviously includes two very tough games.

In February we have

  • Everton at home,
  • Tottenham away,
  • the round of 32 in the Europa 1st leg,
  • round 5 of the FA Cup,
  • Round of 32 of the Europa second leg,
  • Manchester City at home.

So in short the “computer” has screwed us as usual in these two months.

Of course I am not suggesting that we play our second team in full in every Europa game, nor in every FA Cup match, but having that team available not only gives the first team a break, it gives the second team a way of staying match fit, rather than sitting on the bench and never getting a game.  This in turn makes it easier to recruit younger players as they can see they will get some games.

This then obviously has the added bonus of having players who are really ready for a game when they are called upon.

Also in the fixture lists above the EFL cup is not included for the very good reason there are no EFL games in November and February.  But there is an additional bonus all round.  If we really did have a second XI that was being used in the Europa, and the EFL Cup, they would be much more used to playing as a team, and so could probably deliver better performances in the EFL.

And of course I am not suggesting that these line ups are fixed – players will be injured or be in or out of form, meaning they move around.

Although many of the clubs that enter the Europa League preliminary rounds are quite small, and indeed often teams of which I for one have no knowledge, it is interesting to see some well known names cropping up very early in the sequence.  Qualifying rounds start at the end of June.  Here’s a few quirky bits I noticed…

Derry City are based in Northern Ireland, but will participate in the Europa League through one of the berths for the Republic of Ireland and any coefficient points they earn count toward Republic of Ireland and not Northern Ireland.

CSKA Sofia have not been allowed to compete in the Europa League as they were considered by Uefa to have been re-formed as a new club and thus did not pass the “three-year rule”.

Rangers (of Scotland) will be entering the competition in the 1st qualifying round, where they won’t be able to meet Lincoln Red Imps of Gibralter, who enter in the 2nd qualifying round.

From my Anglo perspective the most unpronounceable club name is Fudbalski klub Željezničar – the Bosnian club.

Entering in the 3rd qualifying round are, among others, Everton, Milan, Marseille, Zenit, PSV, and Fenerbahçe.  And there are two teams that don’t play in the top division in their countries: FC Vaduz who play in the Swiss second division, and Tirana who play in the Albanian second division.

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12 comments to Why Arsenal really need a full-blown second XI in the coming season

  • MickHazel

    In view of the obvious problems we will face in the difficult fixture periods it is absolutely imperative that we do not slip up and drop silly points against the weaker opponents during the easier runs of fixtures. Maximum points must be taken from the easier games to allow for the inevitable dropping of points in the harder ones.

  • Gunnercanuck

    Leicester and Chelsea won the Premier League in the past two years without having to compete in Europe. They had fewer injuries and were in better condition when they played each weekend. Arsenal have to create a second 11 that plays Euro League games, League Cup games, and some FA Cup games. Some of these players can be on the bench on the weekend, but they need to play together. Regular games for these players will improve their form, create a second squad that has cohesion, and allow Wenger to play Reine Adelaide, Reiss Nelson, and other youngsters more often than he has in the past. I think it’s a win win situation.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Agree Mick, you lose the title in the “easy” matches.
    A draw against any other top 6 team is bad for both teams. A draw against a lower placed team is bad for us and good news for the other teams in the top 6.

  • Hisham

    I take it that priority No. 1 is the Premier League. The best team must be available for these matches. Even then we can’t hope the starting XI would be the same all the time. So it’ll be a Premier League match day squad that has to be considered, say 16-18 players being possible to start a match.

    Then the other matches, the Europa League and domestic Cups, can be centred on a pool of talented youngsters and supported by a rotating group of “senior” players. Of course, should we progress to the latter stages of these competitions, then this script would be torn up altogether.

  • Andy Mack

    The problem with using 2 teams is that it’s difficult to get the players understanding each other under ‘Game pressure’ when they aren’t playing every week.
    It can work if the EL is a very low priority (like the TinPot Cup was when we were winning lots of other stuff) but if the PL team losses a couple of early season games then the manager will want to keep most of the 1st 11 together to play through to regain confidence.
    We’ve seen it many times before where a manager doesn’t want to make wholesale changes to the 1st 11. He wants to feed in new players 1 or 2 at a time into a winning confident team, so the new boys can absorb that confidence.
    It can work if the whole squad is running on confidence but if not, this 2 team option is unlikely to happen.

  • sainty

    Just curious to know about Ivan Gazidis comments claiming this summer will be a “a catalyst for change”.Can anyone tell me what has changed at the club and what needs to change to give Arsenal the best chance of winning the premier league??

  • Sainty, I can’t find any reference to Ivan Gazidis saying this. He did use the phrase “catalyst for change” in early April at the supporters meeting, but not in relation to the summer being a catalyst for change. If he said that somewhere else and I missed it, the issue of what has changed is irrelevant since we haven’t got to summer yet. If you have a diary check and you will see that summer runs from 21 June to 20 September.

  • sainty

    I know exactly when our summer time starts and finishes but you would think that our CEO stating this that we would be seing some form of changes in the way the club are run in the off season .If he didnt mean it to be over the summer why would he say this??Would it be to try and appease the fans before offerin Wenger 2 more years after our indifferent season last year.You can understand some fans who believe the saying insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”?

  • As I said before, I can’t see where he made this comment.

    Yes I know some people the saying insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”? And there are some people who believe Einstein said that. But that doesn’t mean that he said it either.

  • MickHazel

    ‘You can understand some fans who believe the saying insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”?’
    Those same fans who have been trying to remove Wenger for years without success but keep on trying expecting a different result are therefore admitting to their own insanity then.
    How ironic.

  • bob

    1. Chelsea and Leicester won PL without fixtures in Europe. Fresh player for PL clash is fundamental
    2. We have well-distributed quality of player in every position. Hunger for game time. Qualified to compete in European league, EFL and FA Cup.
    3. Other teams (Chelz to Evert) will drop their first team onto European fixture. Exhausted is expected
    4. Winning PL league is priority

    I am with the author side which we need to split our forces within next campaign. We should preserve 11 man free of duty from midweek fixture to fight in PL. Those 11 man will be out of reason to perform below the expectation bacause they dont need to play extrafixtures.

    With our current squad (without players leaving) we can send
    Alexis-Welbz-Ozil, Kolasinac-Xhaka-Ox-Bellerin, Monreal-Kosc-Mustafi for PL
    Iwobi-Perez-Theo, Gibbs-Coq-Ramsey-Jenko, Chambers-Gabriel-Holding for EL, EFL, FA cup. Giroud should play for both competition for aerial option, Mert can play both when we are facing strong opponents with header. It allows Monreal and Kosc to concentrate on important games while reducing their gametime due to their ages. It gives experience for Chambers-Holding axis. And it gives Alexis chance to win his first PL. Dont sell him, let him won us PL and he can go freely.

    Adjustment can be made considering some players coming and leaving, and also type of opponents. Should splitting the force do not get us near the tittle, neither playing week-in and week-out with exhaustive player, and culture of mid season injuries among the club.

    Yes. We should split the force, make priority and win this season.

  • bob

    Wenger should also consider to give next year Champions league fixtures to which team who contributes to Champions League ticket. Should the team who won European League Final get the entrance, they deserve to play in CL, and vise versa for team who won PL.

    It will create internal competition among players to push their limits. We hope to rarely see passengers who just jog around the pitch. When other squad won EL fixture, the other squad should push their limits in PL. This internal competition will be good for us, supporters. It will also shut the mouth of some players who keep blabbing about CL. If you want to play in CL, get your squad to pole position.