Unai Emery’s Jekyll and Hyde Arsenal team returned to being Dr. Henry Jekyll tonight as the mid-week team is rolled out for the Europa League.
The weekend team has come in for a lot of criticism this season.
15 points from 9 games, 2 wins in the last 7 games, yet to win a game by more than a single goal.
They still sit 5th in the league, just 2 points off of a top 3 place, but performances have been tough to watch and results average at best leading many to question whether Unai Emery is the right man.
The midweek team meanwhile has been fantastic, albeit against lower opposition.
12 goals in 3 games, none conceded, attacking, free flowing football produced by some of the most exciting young players in Europe.
Tonight the youngsters face Vitoria at home – the Portuguese team currently sit 4th in their league.
Without a win from their opening 2 games, they have lost to both Standard Liege and Eintracht Frankfurt – whom Arsenal beat 4-0 and 3-0 respectively.
The likes of Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin will continue their rehabilitation.
All 3 are now surely on the cusp of 1st team action and, following the run of disappointing results from the weekend team, a good performance will surely see them in the starting XI for Crystal Palace.
Unfortunately Riess Nelson is out injured which will restrict his opportunity to push Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka in the first team. His absence opens the door for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to make his case that he is a winger, not a full back.
Gabrielle Martinelli will play either upfront or on the other wing, as it would not be a surprise to see Alexandre Lacazette be given a 60 minute run out upfront.
Like the games against Nottingham Forest, Frankfurt and Liege, tonight should be an exciting game with the fans backing the youngsters.
Now if only that enthusiasm could carry over to the weekend team.
Bellerin Mustafi Holding Tierney
AMN ESR Martinelli