Arsenal now have to prepare for the Europa League “home” fixture against Benfica on Thursday, and with the games coming thick and fast, the boss fully expects to have to put some fresh legs on the pitch in Athens.
We are going into the return leg badly out of form with just one win in our last 5 League games and a glaring lack of goals from our strikers. Other than the four strikes against Leeds, we have only managed one goal in our other four fixtures, and Arteta told Arsenal.com about the problems he is having managing the squad. “Well, it’s hard because everyone wants to play and everyone wants to be available for every game, so if anything, I feel sorry for the players that they cannot play or are not playing more. But everybody is doing their best all the time to be available, which I really value a lot. But it’s true that there’s players with lots of minutes and we don’t have the players to replace them, unfortunately.”
So, naturally he was then asked about whether he would make a number of changes against Benfica, and he replied: “I don’t know if it will be five, four or seven. We will have to see how they react from today’s performance. It was a really tough game physically for both because it was full gas from the beginning and we will see who will be available and fit to be there. Obviously we need a fresh team and we need legs as well because then the decision making and everything becomes better when they are fresh. We will see who’s available.”
The fact is that the Europa League is now our only hope of getting anything out of our season, but if we are as wasteful in the second leg as we were in the first then it is not going to be easy.
Perhaps Arteta will play super defensively and hope we can go through on the away go rule after a 0-0 draw?
Playing for a nil nil draw is an extremely dangerous strategy which I’m sure Arteta is not planning to try. I think Cedric will be in for Bellerin, ESR in for Ødegaard and at least one other change. Hopefully we take our chances this time!
FC Benfica are on a run of mediocre results in the Portuguese League and are like Arsenal can only make the Champions League by winning the Europa league. Arsenal of course are much higher rated than Benfica and by rights should cruise into the next round. Yet Olympiakos stunned Arsenal at this stage last season. It’s a massive game for the club the manager and the fans as all of our season’s hopes rest on winning the EL. It is all or nothing on Thursday night. From now on every Europa League game is the most important game of the season.
Cedric Gabriel Luiz Tierney
Pepe Odegaard Martinelli
Ryan Holding Bellerin Elneny
Saka Ceballos Aubameyang
Fortunately Benfica are struggling as well, as they only managed a 0-0 draw on the weekend against a side that is 1 point from bottom spot.
If we put in a solid performance, we will win the tie without needing to think about away goals.
More clinical in front of goal and we will be in the next round. COYG
Martinelli-lacazette-pepe…smith rowe to start on Saturday..