Arsenal vs FC Vorskla Poltava Preview: Emery To Ring The Changes

There is a romanticism about European football. Our memories are of the glory nights and dramatic games; we forget that, for the most part, the opposition was made up of smaller clubs.

FC Vorska Poltava, from eastern Ukraine, fit that category. Nothing wrong with that at all, before you ask. It’s not a glamour tie in any sense of the phrase: it’s not glamorous nor is it a tie. And therein is the fundamental problem.

UEFA misses the point of their club competitions in a sporting sense. Fans want to see the big games, of course, but we don’t want that padded by four meaningless fixtures. One of the great strengths of European competitions all those years ago was the tingling of the spine when you drew a good side in the competition. You’d done your time in the opening rounds by beating the minnows, now it was the big boys.

So much, so similar to today yet the contrived nature of the group stage robs games of meaning. Three points isn’t the same as defending a one-goal advantage on a crap pitch in the middle of nowhere on a cold night when the character of players is tested. Three points and you move onto the next game with no intensity; it’s a league match, the antithesis of a knockout competition.

There are signs the format is dying on its’ arse. Green shoots or withering plants at the end of summer; whatever the case, the empty seats in stadia are not a good sign. You get exceptions such as the Mestalla last night; a wall of noise which eventually crumbled and buried Ronaldo’s tears in the debris.

But for the most part, group stage sellouts only refers to the clubs themselves and their craven desire to appease the payments.

Contrived Moments

Not that attendances mean much; it’s the sponsors’ money which matters, the advertisers who hold the power and demand the big teams in the latter stages. Seeding destroys competition in the same way league formats do. The suits miss the point that the reason fans love knockout tournaments is not knowing the draw in advance. A chance for their club to go all the way.

How can I sum up best what is wrong with the current set-up? Tonight Celtic meet Rosenborg in the Europa League group stage.  Celtic beat Rosenborg 3 – 1 on aggregate in the Champions League second qualifying round in August, before losing to AEK Athens in the next round. How can both of them still be in Europe? No wonder the Europa League has such a poor reputation.

That’s my annual rant over. This is an organisation which thinks that we want international friendlies to have some meaning so they come up with a meaningless tournament. What they miss about international football is that we don’t want as much as often. We don’t want the continual interruptions to the first three months of the league season. We’ve had the World Cup, enjoyed it thank you very much, but let us have some time with our clubs, our loved ones. Then we’ll come back to you refreshed.

Which is in no way the opportunity for a contrived segue into the point of today’s post which is not a good old-fashioned bitch and moan, but a preview of tonight’s game. What should we expect?

I don’t know. Bernd Leno plays, so too Stephan Lichtsteiner. I’m guessing Lucas Torreira as well. As the for the rest of the team, your guess is as good as mine. A new central defensive pairing involving Rob Holding is one change I’d suggest.

Contrasts and Sharp Focus

In midfield, maybe Smith-Rowe will get a full debut? Welbeck up front, Aubameyang on the sidelines. A line-up which looks something like:

Leno; Lichtsteiner, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal; Torreira, Guendouzi; Mkhitaryan, Smith-Rowe, Welbeck; Lacazette

Good enough to win, we hope. We expect, as well. With a bench including Xhaka, Özil, Aubameyang, and Ramsey, we have enough in reserve and a coach who isn’t scared to make a change at half-time if things aren’t working.

Beyond that, a clean sheet would be nice. Something to show the defence is working. Lichtsteiner’s experienced head on the right will be an interesting contrast to Bellerin’s bombing forward. Will the Swiss international be able to command better defensive cover when he surges forward? Or will we play this as a more tactical match than the Premier League? Cautious not to concede, but on the front foot?

We shall see. Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

46 thoughts on “Arsenal vs FC Vorskla Poltava Preview: Emery To Ring The Changes

  1. Pete the Thirst says:

    ‘the Mestalla last night; a wall of noise which eventually crumbled’ – Nice analogy YW.

    Was at the Mestalla for the CL 1/4 final 2nd leg in 2001. The place was crumbling to pieces then, so it must be a real mess now. I clearly remember that big Norwegian oaf John Carew rising to beat Seaman – another game we should have wrapped up and could/should have gone to the CL final that season.

  2. Dalm says:

    think this time last year we were bored with/sated by years of Chumps League and had hoped that the Europa would offer something new, different and interesting. In the event, it simply didn’t enthuse or inspire with us putting out teams that weren’t coherent and then ultimately blew it.

    Chance for something different tonite ? who knows – possibly who cares.

    I’d almost bet we go with the Saturday line up !

  3. thrillbo says:

    Pete the Thirst: I clearly remember that big Norwegian oaf John Carew

    Brings back some good memories, one of the many oafs to terrorize Arsene’s backline over the past decade. Havent heard that name in a while wow. Heres to a good match today and an easy win.

  4. consolsbob says:

    Well said that man!

    When I wrote that a week or so ago, in much fewer words of course, I was accused of being a miserable bugger.

    Welcome to the Curmudgeon Club, YW.

    Looking forward to this one, for all that. New faces and so on.

  5. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    Quite looking forward to tonight’s game.

    Watched the city game last night. Why do they never replay that badly against us. Fair play to Lyon though Ndombele ran the show for them.

    All very predictablw though regardless how bad City were. Liverpool might win the league this year. But all it means is City go and spend 200mill in summer. City win league next year and Pep is a genius again

  6. MesutsLeftFoot says:


    I think Leno, Lichsteiner, holding, iwobi and Torriera all start tonight for Cech, bellerin, ozil and Ramsey. Perhaps welbeck as well for Auba but I feel Auba needs game time

  7. Michael says:

    Interesting line up if live score are correct.

  8. C says:

    Leno; Lichtsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Monreal; Torreira, Elneny; Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Welbeck; Aubameyang

    I’m interested to see who plays in midfield: Iwobi or Mhkitaryan

  9. Adam Singh says:

    Leno, Lichtsteiner, Holding, Popadsdospdsododpsodosod, Monreal, Torreira, Elneny, Iwobi, Welbeck, Miki, Aubameyang.

    Pretty strong line up. I think Aubameyang could do with a goal. All eyes on Leno’s distribution.

  10. C says:

    Adam Singh,

    Yup and Aubameyang through the middle.

    Torriera and Elneny is quite interesting because they will cover loads and loads of ground.

  11. YW says:

    Let’s try reverse psychology.

    We’re too static.

  12. C says:

    Brilliant ball from Iwobi and Aubameyang buries it!!!

  13. Adam Singh says:

    Would like to see Aubameyang do a bit more when he plays. He’s got so much pace and skill. Needs to get on the ball more …

  14. Wilberforce says:

    Impressed with Sokratis, Iwobi so far and Torreira’s commitment. He tried to header the ball on the floor!!

  15. C says:

    Not sure how others feel but Iwobi continues to play like this and how he did in his previous appearance, ai would very much like him on the right of the front 3 and dropping Ozil into midfield alongside Torriera and one of Guendouzi or Xhaka.

  16. YW says:


    I’d argue Iwobi and Mkhitaryan are putting themselves into contention when we need some width.

    However, the consistency question is yet to be answered.

  17. C says:

    Iwobi’s pace pushes them back and Mhkitaryan picks out Welbeck for the first cleanly hit goal of Welbeck’s career!

  18. C says:


    Agree, if either can find consistency they would most certainly balance the front 4….especially Iwobi who when confident would be a perfect option on the right flank.

  19. C says:

    Brace for Aubameyang is exactly what he and Arsenal needed…..could this be him refinding his shooting boots?!?!?

  20. C says:

    Can Leno start against Everton since he didn’t get much work, please, pretty please Unai?!?

  21. Adam Singh says:


    He didn’t look that convincing when those two crosses came in! How tall is he. Looks a bit short.

  22. Adam Singh says:


    I’m convinced Cech will kick the ball into his net before the end of the season

  23. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    Can we never just keep a clean sheet :'(

  24. Noon Gunner says:


    You gotta love Sokratis, holding onto the Brazilian’s shorts as if he owned them, then astonished when the ref blew for a foul! Real cussed grit.

  25. Adam Singh says:

    I wonder if we will keep one clean sheet this season.

  26. Noon Gunner says:


    Probably not. But going forwards you can’t but be excited by our two teenagers on the pitch.

  27. Adam Singh says:

    Guendouzi has been class since he came on

  28. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    Good performance but so frustrating we lost those two goals. Classic us goals as well….

  29. Noon Gunner says:


    Oh for goodness sake! We sure don’t yet know how to secure a solid victory, do we? It may come…it may come…it’s got to come!

  30. Michael says:

    A bit sloppy toward the end, but have 2 goal advantage, for now.

  31. SV says:

    3 points is what matters in the group stages. If we keep conceding a few a game, but still winning, I could not care less.

  32. C says:

    So many positives though!

    No way we could actually lose a match when Welbeck scores a clean goal…

  33. nicky says:

    Far too much tippy-tappy passing in front of goal a la Wenger…..until Iwobi’s defence splitting pass to Aub, opened the scoring.
    Their two goals resulted from well-taken shots from close-in. Nothing to worry about.
    It’ll be a tad more tricky when Everton visit at the weekend. 😉

  34. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    Sokratis was solid, looked really assertive. Was good to see. I think we really missed Bellerin going forward, so many times there was a space on right where he’d have been, but Lich was solid imo.

    I sense we’ll see Xhaka and Torreira on Sunday which is good. Leno, hard to tell, was two thunderbolt shots…..

    But, can’t tell if it was El Neny or whatever, but play was so slow at times, perhaps we’ve still got a wenger hangover but was tedious at times and i’m tired of seeing forward passes by defneders instantly passed back to them and then passed sideways. Torriera was at least trying to get balls forward.

    4 wins in a row though

  35. MikeSA says:

    Aubmeyang reminded me just how good his placement is when he shoots at goal.

    He’s head and shoulders above almost everyone else in that regard.

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