A team of youngsters or an experienced team against Zurich?



By Bulldog Drummond

“Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta to make surprise Europa League team selections” according to  the Express.

But the surprise they claim, however, is not that we see players from the junior ranks that we have never seen before, but rather, very few changes from the Premier League side.

However they then go on to tell us that Goalkeeper Matt Turner could deputise for Aaron Ramsdale.  

They also say “Fabio Vieira made a brief cameo off the bench against United and is set to have a regular spot in the team. Young winger Marquinhos, who has been an unused substitute in the last three league matches, could also be given an opportunity.”   

Now I would call that a surprise, given that the key issue here is to pick up the points so that the club can go into the last game or two in the group, knowing they have qualified.  But the Express writer continues…

“Rob Holding is likely to be given game time in defence, with the likes of Takehiro Tomiyasu and Cedric Soares also vying for spots. But it appears Arteta is not overly keen on using untested academy players and will instead field strong XIs.”

Why and how this appears we are not told.

But in fact the team that will turn out looks likely to contain the sort of range of changes managers normally make at this stage.  It is very rare that clubs put out a complete array of young players with limited experience, although Arsene Wenger did do this on occaison – but not always with success.

The team put out for the first match in the Europa League in 2020 was


Soares, Gabriel, David Luiz, Kolasinac

Saka, Elneny, Partey, Pepe

Lacazette, Nketiah


It seems to me much more likely however that the results of the games will determine what sort of team Arsenal will put out, and a series of solid performances akin to those the last time Arsenal played in the Europa will allow more young players to be introduced for the last couple of games.

For the final group stage match two years ago the team included Runarsson in goal, Emile Smith Rowe, Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland Niles, Nic Pepe and Eddie Nketiah in the starting XI and Folarin Balogun, Den Cottrell and Miguel Azeez being used as subs.

However the fact that the opposition on Thursday has had such a dodgy start to the season is, I think, unlikely to influence the manager very much.   He’ll want a strong win to set the campaign off on the right note.

Certainly, none of the under 21s who played against Feyenoord last night were ever likely to be in the squad for Switzerland.    The starters were Graczyk, Sweet, Foran, Awe, Jeffcott, Ibrahim, Bandeira, Henry-Francis (C), Taylor-Hart, Ideho, Butler-Oyedeji.   On the bench we had Hillson, Brown, Robinson, Nwaneri, Lewis, Sagoe Jr.    The game finished as a 1-1 draw against Feyenoord.

As suggested above, last time around Arsenal had a spectacular campaign in the group stages of the Europa


Date Match Result Score
22 Oct 2020 Rapid Wien v Arsenal W 1-2
29 Oct 2020 Arsenal v Dundalk W 3-0
05 Nov 2020 Arsenal v Molde W 4-1
26 Nov 2020 Molde v Arsenal W 0-3
03 Dec 2020 Arsenal v Rapid Wien W 4-1
10 Dec 2020 Dundalk v Arsenal W 2-4


And I seem to recall that Arsenal were the first team ever to win all six qualifiers – although I am writing that one from memory so I could be wrong.  If so I am fairly sure I’ll be corrected.

More later…

5 Replies to “A team of youngsters or an experienced team against Zurich?”

  1. Wenger got the Europa exactly right. You put a lot of effort into the champions league because it generates the revenue to maintain the strong squad to enable you to compete on two fronts. It can effectively be self financing. That doesn’t happen with the Europa, which means the league and top four needs to be the priority. You might be able to win 20+ extra games and win the competition to gain a champions league spot but its long odds. Much more likely you will burn out your players playing them twice a week like West Ham did last season. The Europa is all or nothing, if you don’t win its wasted effort. Given United’s return from the dead the competition for those top four places will be strong. Chelsea may not feature but Liverpool are too good not to bounce back. Arguably in terms of depth Arsenal have the weakest squad so burning out players is simply something Arteta can’t afford.

  2. IMHO we’ve got nothing to losse to play as many youngsters as possible. This is a real competition even if the ‘quality’ may be less. Arsenal are the one team any smaller team will want to beat.

    The Young Guns will have to prove themselves. So I expect a mix. with plenty of playing time for the non starters so they can get experience, show their worth and have fun as well.

    So Chelsea sacked the second manager this season so far. Say what you want, but I think Arsenal have owners who definitely know a thing or two about sports teams and their strategy to go long term is paying off. Wonder who Chelsea is going to bring in now ?

  3. (for what it’s worth, of course) my pick’d be:
    (bench: hein-saliba-sousa-monlouis-smith-xhaka-saka-jesus-cozierduberry)
    staying home, licking their wounds: ramsdale-soares-odegaard-zinchenko-elneny-nelson-smithrowe-partey
    In this group, PSV will be a tough nut to crack, of course, but:
    1) at some point, players like turner-marquinhos-vieira (and matt smith! or so I hope, anyway) have to be tested
    2) no disrespect to them, but our “B” team should be able to cruise past zürich-glimt and make it to the knockout stage without relying on wins against PSV
    3) In my opinion, the same “B” team should be picked against PSV; we’ll run the risk of finishing 2nd and of having to play the round-of-32 games (teams finishing 1st make it to the round of 16 straightaway) – but these 2 games against PSV will be the only opportunities our backup players will have to show their worth without the fear of the consequences of defeat weighing too heavy on their minds, so I think it’s a “risk” worth taking

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *