Eyes turn toward Europe, in an exasperated glance. No, not a diatribe on the farcical political landscape but Thursday night’s fixture looms large on the horizon.
Unai Emery has some interesting decisions in terms of team selection. Experience in the XI comes from the likes of Cech but with their suspensions this weekend, one of Sokratis and Mustafi ought to play. I’d prefer Sokratis, if I’m honest. Shkodran does have some bad defensive habits that I wouldn’t want to rub off on his partner, Zech Medley.
It’s a match to allow the youngsters to flourish. Jenkinson on the right is a natural replacement for Bellerin; save Monreal and Lichtsteiner for the weekend. Koscielny isn’t fully fit so Thursday is out, surely? I’ve got enough concerns about him for the weekend as it is. Unai surely won’t add to them? As if he cares what any of us think two days before the game!
These are the games – a dead rubber; we are guaranteed top spot already, Qarabag can’t qualify – where the youngsters need just a guiding hand but ought to be in the majority in terms of numbers in the XI. Maitland-Niles, Willock and Elneny in midfield; Smith Rowe, Nketiah further ahead. A 6/5 split or maybe 7/4?
We’re told the kids are alright so let’s see some of that manifest in their first XI appearances. There’s a danger in going too far, but I’m sure someone like Lacazette or Aubameyang on the bench will keep Eddie on his toes!
Therein is the rub. Emery must risk some of the first team players on Thursday or be prepared to. While our squad is deeper than Tottenham’s, we don’t have the riches of City. Maybe that will change when the new loan rules come into force and clubs can’t stockpile talent.
How Lo Can You Go?
Mentioning Koscielny as briefly as I did segues belatedly – or not at all – into Bernd Leno’s words about the former France international. He’s Captain Fantastic as far as Bernd is concerned:
Before Tottenham, he was not in the squad, but five minutes before the game he said many, many good things about the history of the game, how important it is for the fans, for the club, for every player.
He is the perfect captain for us. In training, you see how he is talking to other players. We have many young players and he talks to them, and for me, he is a big personality in the team, in the dressing room.
So, there you go. Not the strong silent type, our Laurent but a leader! I kind of imagine his speech in the voice of Bjørge Lillelien:
Who would he invoke?
We are the best in the world! The best in the world! We will beat Tottenham 5-2 in football!! It is completely believable! We will beat Tottenham! Tottenham,
birthplaceof pygmies. Harry Kane. Dele Alli. Christian Eriksen. Hugo Lloris. Harry Winks. Eric Lamela. Eric Dire – We will beat them all. We will beat them all.
Keith Burkenshaw. Harry Redknapp. Andre Villas-Boas, your boys took a hell of a beating. Mauricio Pochettino. Mauricio Pochettino. Can you hear me?
He was a goal out, obs; so not that good at the rhetoric.
We know it’s all a lot more
Whatever he said, it had the desired effect for the opening half an hour before Unai Emery stepped in at the interval.
It’s just nice to hear about leadership, of pulling the dressing room along rather than letting it sink into the loucheness which ruled before. Long may that continue.