A belated matchday preview as Arsenal travel to Borisov to face BATE. Take it as read that all the ‘master’ jokes have been done as I’m a bit pushed for time.
Unai Emery updated on the team news as the travelling squad was announced:
The players who I don’t take in the squad are Aaron Ramsey because he hasn’t trained with us; Sokratis, who started to train with us yesterday and today, but I don’t think it’s enough. Mesut is the same and after being sick, Aubameyang started training on Monday, yesterday and today and I think he is okay for the match.
Leaving the squad:
No surprises given Emery’s update and I doubt there will be any when the XI is announced. For what it’s worth, I’d go with as strong as possible, but I suspect Emery will weaken the side by including Mustafi:
Cech; Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac; Torreira, Guendouzi, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, Suarez
I’m not expecting Emery to play both his main strikers from the start; rotate tonight and see if the job gets done. If not, there’s always next week.
On Suarez, Emery was non-commital:
First I am thinking
forthe best performance tomorrow with the best players. His adaptation is good but it needs time. He is okay to start being involved in the first XI but also to be inthe bench so that later in the match he can play. This adaptation is important for us and then also he can be playing, but he needs to earn it, little-by-little, to take minutes, confidence and rhythm with us. These can be the two possibilities.
If he takes it “little-by-little”, the season will be over and Suarez lumped into the same pile as Kim Kallstrom but without the Championship Manager rating.
He’s Not There
As much time is devoted to those not in the squad as those who travelled. Mesut Ozil wasn’t deemed to fit enough to travel because he only returned to training yesterday. Or the day before but frankly I’d forgotten he was ill at weekend. It’s all merging into one; injuries, illness, lost his passcard to get into London Colney; whatever this week’s excuse was.
The sooner the situation is resolved, the better it will be for everyone. To the outsiders, i.e. fans, it’s patently obvious that Emery doesn’t think Ozil fits into his plans. I suspect there is an element of him knowing that in order to sign new players, he needs to sell and cut the wage bill. Emery knows the situation and is doing his part by making it clear to the player that he doesn’t have a long-term future at the club.
Maybe it isn’t. Maybe Mesut is genuinely sick and injury-prone. I don’t believe it but that’s my own cynicism about the situation.
And it’s a distraction, to be honest. The Europa League is, to some, the best route to the Champions League. Chelsea, once viewed as the big threat, appear to be less of an obstacle than they were a couple of months ago.
There are other teams to be wary of but if we can get our act together, there’s no reason why we can’t win it. However, putting all your eggs in this basket is a dangerous game. The manner of Manchester United’s defeat against PSG destroyed the veil of infalibility which Solskjaer’s appointment dropped over the cracked squad Mourinho left behind.
It’s Goodnight From Me and Goodnight From Him
The top four isn’t beyond us and while it can’t be taken for granted, we have the opportunity to return to the position so often derided as a lack of ambition. This train is stopping at irony central, before moving onto ambition.
This evening’s game is one we should win comfortably and there’s really no excuse for us to fail to do so. I’m not so concerned by conceding although a clean sheet might do players of fragile confidence the world of good.
It’s close to kick-off so I’ll sign off now. Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.