by Bulldog Drummond
The weather forecast for Östersund this Thursday evening is currently showing -5 degrees centigrade but taking into account wind speeds and humidity this is going to feel like -12°C. Or put another way about 10.5°F. Or put another way bloody cold.
Östersund’s last match before the winter freeze was on 7 December when they drew 1-1 with Hertha Berlin away. I can’t find any records to show that they played any pre-season warm up games since then although I use “warm up” in its broadest sense.
The club’s first game of the new year was what is called “Matchday 1 of 3” in the Swedish cup in which they beat Trelleborg 3-0 on 9 February, at home.
After the game on 22 February at the Arsenal Stadium, they play the second of the three Swedish Cup games, this time away to Åtvidaberg – a name that means “Towards the Mountains” which is exactly where you might not want to be in the Swedish winter.
So anyway, the amount of matchday preparation they can do is going to be limited, which might be a benefit to us, but they will have the huge benefit of being used to these temperatures.
As you will recall Arsenal used variations on the League Cup XI for the Europa matches up to this point, with the last team that was put out being…
Debuchy Chambers Holding Maitland-Niles
Walcott Welbeck Giroud
The subs used were Nelson, Nketiah and Willock
Quite obviously we have lost Debuchy, Coquelin Walcott and Giroud from that line up which means we shall need to be drafting in other players either from the first team squad or promoting from the second XI.
Arsenal has actually registered a 44 man squad for the Europa League but this includes many youngsters who are there to help their self-esteem and occasionally to give them a legitimate reason to be at games and even on the bench.
Now in reducing that list down to players who might play or be beached in the frozen snow we have to take into account not so much those who played against Tottenham but those who might be needed in the future, and here we see a bit of an oddity in our fixture list:
Thursday 15th February: Europa League
Thursday 22nd February, Europa League
Sunday 25th February, League Cup Final
In short there are no league matches forthcoming, and these games are all in the two competitions within which we might just win a cup (which of course is not a trophy).
Speaking of this situation Mr Wenger has said, according to ESPN, “I will play the normal team because it is one of the opportunities we have especially because we don’t play in the FA Cup. There is no reason why I should rest players.”
So bearing this in mind I rather suspect we might venture into the frozen wastelands of the far north (which for once is not Manchester or Liverpool) with a very solid strong first team line up, and then assuming we have done ok in the north, some of the youngsters could get a game in the second leg at Arsenal Stadium, leaving the first team feeling fresh and revitalised for the League Cup Final.
So looking at the options overall, what I’ve now done is produced a reduced down squad, eliminating players who I don’t think are likely to get a game. The under 21s have an asterisk after their names.
You will know I am sure (but I am going to write it any way) the Mkhitarian can play in the Uefa League but Auba can’t, due to the convoluted nature of the Uefa rules. The reverse applies in the League Cup where Auba can play but Mkhitarian can’t.
Here’s the Europa League squad list.
- Iwobi *
- Dragomir *
- Nelson *
- Nketiah *
- Willock *
Of course the bigger the win in Sweden the more likely it is that we can rest up the squad in the second leg ahead of the league cup final. If there were to be a slip in the first leg in Sweden then more members of the established team will need to be in the squad for the second game. But we don’t want this: there are only four days between the second Europa League game and the league cup final.
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