Arsenal head to Kyiv for the final away game of the Europa League group stage. FC Vorskla face an inexperienced squad, even by League Cup standards. A bespectacled Unai Emery, who you just know is going to the Christmas fancy dress party as Jacob Rees-Mogg, made no bones about his selection:
When there are matches like tomorrow’s in a very big week for us, where we are playing a lot of matches, we have players to cover here.
It was a polite way of saying Spurs and Manchester United are more important fixtures. And in any case, if we screw it up here, there’s always Qarabag at hom to wrap the group up.
Quite right too. Not only do we face Tottenham, it’s also Mike Bloody-Dean as twelfth man. Or the referee, as PGMOL like to call him. To be fair, we have apparently won the last three North London Derbies he officiated so it’s not all bad.
Emery isn’t thinking that far ahead; tonight is important to him. I guess for the continuation of momentum; a long unbeaten run breeds confidence throughout the squad but would losing damage confidence in the sixteen players who didn’t travel.
It’s a tough game for both sides. A sparse crowd in a 70,000-capacity will provide an eerie backdrop for the players. Maybe Arsenal’s academy players are used to matches with few spectators so they might find it less unusual than first-teamers?
You have to feel sympathy for Vorskla. Their biggest game in the Europa League this season and it’s going to feel like an away match in every respect. It won’t be much fun financially for them either; perhaps Richard Scudamore could pass his £5m bonus to the Ukrainians?
Just a thought, eh, Tricky Dicky.
Bitchy and Scratchy
Which brings us to other news this morning. A Polish programme co-hosted by Wojciech Szczesny carried a chat with Lukasz Fabianski about their time at the club. It’s safe to say Gerry Peyton didn’t come out of it well:
Fabianksi and Szczesny talking about former GK coach Gerry Peyton. No wonder Cech regressed. How did Wenger allow this man to stay here. 😂🤦🏻♂️ pic.twitter.com/DGSon9OF8N— VV (@VintageHleb2) November 28, 2018
We assume the use of video is a lot more scientific now. The exchange confirms Peyton as a man out of time. However, that doesn’t excuse players not taking responsibility for their own development. They are as culpable with Szczesny’s problems stemming from other incidents as much as stunted improvement as a goalkeeper.
Even so, a look at his career since leaving north London shows a decent goalkeeper in there waiting to escape. First choice at Roma ahead of the now-eulogised Alisson and now Juventus. You don’t stay at either club if you aren’t up to scratch.
Equally, Fabianski did well with a struggling Swansea side as well as with West Ham, who find themselves in a similar boat. There are more reservations over him staying with Arsenal than Szczesny in my view. A decent goalkeeper but ‘Arsenal-class’? I’m not convinced.
But we could and should have done more for both. It’s another lesson to be learned by the club and Javi Garcia, who joined as part of Emery’s ‘revolution’ is highly rated by Fabianski.
Is Petr Cech’s view of Peyton similarly jaundiced? Probably; Cech was disappointed Christophe Lollichon wasn’t offered a role at Arsenal when he left Chelsea.
Finally, a series on ITV well worth catching up with is Out of their Skin, which is available here.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.