Arsenal have reached the Quarter Finals of the Europa League and will be hoping for a good start to their tie against Prague as we host them at the Emirates this evening. We come in as favourites, but there is no doubt that for any Quarter Final we will have to be at our best to make it to the next round. That means starting a strong team, but with Kieran Tierney ruled out for up to 6 weeks, Arteta will have some big decisions to make. Here is how I would line up…
GK – Leno: This one goes without saying. Overall, Leno has had another impressive season. Sure, he has had some dodgy moments along the way, but there is no doubt that he is our best goalkeeper
RB – Bellerin: I have been enjoying seeing Chambers back in the side, but for me Chambers is more of a centre back. Bellerin should be fit and raring to go. I think some of his best performances this season have come in this competition and hopefully that can continue tonight
CB – Holding: On the right hand side of our back 2 I want Holding. He looked a little bit ropy against Liverpool but overall is very solid and reliable. Luiz has been making some mistakes recently, though perhaps the rest he has been afforded recently will have him ready. I wouldn’t mind seeing Holding or Luiz or even Chambers. Though with Chambers, I would test him out more in the Premier League to see how he looks as a centre back for us
CB – Gabriel: He is the best centre back at the club and one of perhaps only 4 or 5 players who can actually claim to have had a good season.
LB – Cedric: I was so gutted to hear about Tierney’s injury. 6 weeks is a long time in the run in. He might just be able to play the final if we make it that far, but it’s going a much tougher journey without him. Arteta might look to go back to a wing back system, but I thought Cedric filled in relatively well in this position.
CDM – Partey: It’s so great to have this guy fit. It has been a bit of a fragmented first season for Partey, but if he leads us to Europa League glory, all of those injuries will be forgotten
CDM – Xhaka: He had a slight injury issue against Liverpool, but has been pictured in training. I hope he is fit. Ceballos is on terrible form. Plus, on the ball Cedric can play more inverted with Xhaka covering that left back area like he always does
RW – Saka: On the right wing I want to see Saka return to the side. He has been dealing with a hamstring issue but has also been back in training and should hopefullly be available. I think we saw against Liverpool how much we miss his movement and runs in the final third; we just couldn’t keep the ball in their half
CAM – Odegaard: In that number 10 role I’m expecting to see Odegaard. Smith Rowe might be fit, and I won’t be complaining much if he starts, but Odegaard has been unreal in the last month or so.
LW – Pepe: I hope Arteta doesn’t make the same mistake he made last time Tierney was injured. He started using Pepe on the left, but then dropped him after a couple of great games. With Cedric at right back, we will need a left footer down our left hand side. And, actually, I reckon Pepe has been a lot more dangerous this season working from that side
ST – Lacazette: There are 3 players who will be trying to fight over this spot. Martinelli, Aubameyang and Lacazette. For Martinelli, I would love to see him start in the Premier League for the rest of the season and I would have him as the first option to come on and change this game, but I think it might be a tad hasty to start him in a Quarter Final like this. (Though I would not complain if he did start). Aubameyang I am just tired of by now. If he isn’t scoring goals, which generally he hasn’t been this season, he just brings nothing to the team. We have given him ample opportunity and that has unfairly hurt the progress of players like Martinelli, Nketiah and Balogun. I think we have shown this season we don’t need Auba, and it might be time to cash in. No hard feelings, I still love the guy. But we have to think about what’s best for the club. Meanwhile, Lacazette has impressed me almost every time I’ve seen him play this season. Not only has he been scoring a decent amount of goals, he also is the reason why Smith Rowe and Saka have played so well. Saka is much better with Lacazette playing compared to when Auba is playing. All the evidence points towards our team being a better side without Auba in it. I just pray Arteta is wise enough to see it
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