Before the lesser games, the Europa League and Copacabana League Cup, I have written short blogs about how I expect to see us line up. For the game against Doncaster, I nailed my prediction. 100% right. Even correctly predicting that Alexis Sanchez would start.
I have no inside knowledge. I do not pretend that I have a source in the club who give’s me the team sheet the day before the game (which when I tweet it out is often wrong). I do exactly what every other fan and media outlet does. I guess. Predict. Make it up as I go along.
Unlike others, however, I take no interest in the actually announced squad, or who is wearing what bib in training. It would probably make it easier if I did.
Now the Europa League and Copacabana League Cup have been competitions that have had 3 purposes this season:
- Give youth a chance
- Keep senior players who are not playing week in week out a chance
- Give 90 minutes to players returning from injury
This round of the Cup, in my opinion, will be different.
With 3 games in a week, and 5 hour flight to some Eastern European town, and Brighton set to turn up to Islington on Sunday, we should not be playing any player expected to be in the first team squad in the Premier League.
All 18 members of the first team expected to make up the squad against Brighton should not travel to Minsk. They should be left at home in their slippers watching on their dodgy Kodi boxes.
They should have spent the time since WBA training on their own, creating two separate training groups, Thursday and Sunday.
Whilst 3 games in a week is not an issue for Arsenal, we should take the opportunity to give the senior players the time off.
So who do I think should play then?
Usually David Ospina will play in cup games, but he should be left at home for this one. Instead Matt Macey should go in goal.
Rob Holding has found himself sitting out the match day squad in recent weeks, with club captain Per Mertesacker making the bench. He will get the chance to play 90 minutes once more. The Europa League is going to be a good competition for him.
With Calum Chambers out for 3 weeks with a hip injury, Krystian Bielik will partner Holding in defence. The Polish centre back is still just 19!
The other centre back position is up for grabs. Will Mattheiu Debuchy be forced out to France, will he go for Mertesacker? Or will Wenger go left field and play a striker at centre back. Personally I would go for Debuchy, but I think Wenger will go against my advice of leaving everyone at home and play Per Mertesacker.
It will be as you were in the wing back positions as Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles get more game time.
Mohamed Elneny has been an ever present in the Europa League and Copacabana League Cup (I think, I have not actually checked), but with him starting Monday, and in line to play against Bournemouth, I do not expect him to start.
Whilst Jack Wilshere made the bench for the game against WBA, I would be surprised to see him there again for Brighton. With Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez fully fit, the centre of the park will be Aaron Ramsey and either Granit Xhaka or Elneny. This will leave the other of the two on the bench, and Wilshere falls out. He will start against BATE.
Having sat out against WBA, I do expect Alex Iwobi to start against BATE. Whilst he will also be on the bench against Brighton, the fact he was not involved against WBA indicates he will start in the Europa League.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide should start behind the strikers. If the youngster is to show his worth, these are the games he needs to be playing. I would actually like to see him play alongside Chuba Akpom and Eddie Nketiah. The 3 play together in the youth teams so should know each others game.
Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud might feature in Wenger’s mind, and I would not be surprised if both start. Or at least Walcott. But I would leave them at home.
So my team to face BATE Borisov:
Holding Mertesacker Bielik
Nelson Wilshere Iwobi Niles
Anyone out there today, enjoy yourself, and stay safe.