By Tony Attwood
The point is that we have had a transfer window in which we have signed a fair number of players and spent a lot of money. These guys, along with some more of our youngsters, need to be introduced into the squad, and they need to get used to their team mates. In short they need time which means they also need games. Games and time, time and games, it was ever thus.
But apart from having an urgent need to integrate the new players that we have purchased in this latest transfer window, we have a second pressing need, and that is to tie up the mini-league not just by qualifying but doing it by winning the grounp (and so getting an easier draw in the first knock out round).
And we need that because Arsenal need not only to get the new players integrated into the team but also to be able to use the Europa group games to bring in the younger players who need more playing time. True we have the League Cup, but that could end in the course of a single game, whereas we have five more Europa group games, which should give us an opportunity.
We most certainly would expect to win the rest of the games in the group, having seen off our main competitor away from home. But his was where it went very wrong last season as the obvious wins in the group did not happen. Win the first four (which is certainly possible now we have won the most difficult game) and we should be able to do as much experimentation as we wish.
Certainly Thomas Partey looked good on the TV screen at my local pub. If this is what he can do in the earliest of days, just imagine what is to come in the future. And that imagination takes in other players who can benefit from his abilities. This could be the making of Pepe for one.
This is not to suggest that Rapid are a great team: their striker Ritzmaier, is, I believe, on loan from Barnsley, where he only managed 15 games last season. Barnsley are 21st out of 24 in the championship at the moment, and without a win in the six games played this season.
But whatever the ins and outs, the teams in this group are the teams we have to beat, so let’s get that done, win the group and have lots of time and space to bring through the younger talent. In the other game today Molde beat the Irish side Dundalk, also by 2-1.
But in our game, it was notably Bellerin and Elneny who were the players who made it all happen for the final goal from Abuameyang, but the youngsters do need more time too if they are really going to breakthrough. And if we are able to give them more time that means we aren’t worried about the result so players like Aubamayang and Bellerin can have time off from their workload and the reserves can have more time on the pitch.
This table shows how, in recent years, anything from 10 points upwards can be enough to win the league and so be guaranteed a place in the first knock out round. Across recent years the winners and runners up have got…
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|13||Basel, LASK, Celtic, Man U||Wolverhampton|
|12||Gent||Getafe, Sporting, Cluj|
|11||Malmo, Arsenal, Espanyol||Wolfsburg|
|9||Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Rangers, Roma, Alkmaar|
So on that basis, 14 points (four wins, two draws) or more will always win the league. Get the four wins in the first four games and the remaining two games can have pretty experimental line ups.