With the defeat to Leicester City in the Premier League now firmly in the rear-view mirror, Arsenal’s attention now turns to a Europa League clash with Irish side Dundalk.
This game presents the perfect opportunity for Mikel Arteta to give some much-needed minutes to some of the fringe players in his squad, while also allowing him to rest some key players. I hate to keep going on about it, but this game would have been perfect for William Saliba to make his Arsenal debut. We’ll have to keep waiting for that moment.
So, what changes will Arteta make to his team? In attack, it could be a toss of the coin between Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette and I pray that Eddie is not shoved out wide for this match. The lower profile opposition could allow our attackers the chance to get some confidence back after their last outing, but it’s doubtful Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will feature heavily, if at all.
Out wide, I am hoping that Reiss Nelson gets some first-team minutes as he has a bright future at this club. Willian has been declared fit and could start on the opposite side, thus allowing Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe to get some rest before the all-important meeting with Manchester United a couple of days later.
The midfield is where changes could be most notable. Emile Smith Rowe could feature, and he should be in the number 10 role, not out wide, as that is where he plays his best football.
Joe Willock and Mohamed Elneny could also feature to freshen up the midfield ahead of the United clash, however, I feel this trio could be a little too inexperienced for Arteta’s liking and he may select either Granit Xhaka or Dani Ceballos to anchor the midfield. Thomas Partey should be rested for this one.
Then there is our defence.
With David Luiz going down against Leicester City and Rob Holding still a couple of weeks away from returning, our options in the centre are rather limited. If Saliba had been included in the squad, he definitely would have been involved in some capacity. At this stage, with Calum Chambers still a bit short of fitness, it very well could be Shkodran Mustafi and Gabriel in the heart of the defence.
One of Ainsley Maitland-Niles or Cedric should start on the right side and Sead Kolasinac will slot into the left-back role. To think outside the box a little, if Cedric is deployed at right-back, that could allow Maitland Niles to shift into a midfield role.
Between the sticks, surely Bernd Leno gets a break and Runar Runarsson gets his chance in what would be his debut for the club. It would give fans a good glimpse of his ability as a ‘keeper.
This is a great opportunity to rotate the squad and freshen up the first team, as towards the end of the Leicester game players did look a little fatigued. Most importantly, it’s a chance to get three points closer to qualifying for the knockout stage.
Arteta will have one eye on the clash with Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men at the weekend when he makes his team selection for this one, but it should be a match in which we should be getting the points with relative ease.
My team to face Dundalk (4-3-3)
Maitland Niles, Gabriel, Mustafi, Kolasinac
Willock, Elneny, Smith Rowe
Nelson, Nketiah, Willian