Tag Archives: Europa League

We’re all going on a Europa League tour

So tomorrow our Europa League journey begins at home against Cologne (or Koln, or Koeln, or whatever it is called).

I for one am a little bit excited about playing in the Europa League this season, for a few reasons:

  1. It is a competition Arsenal can win
  2. New trips to new places
  3. Youngsters will get a chance

The first and third contradict eachother, as Arsenal have the best chance of winning it by putting out their strongest XI, whilst it also makes sense, especially in the group stages, to put out a complete second XI. With Chelsea coming up on Sunday, I expect no one to play tomorrow who will play on Sunday.

I have written countless times before about my boredom with the Champions League. Arsenal were only in it to make up the numbers, and it always felt like a matter of time until we got spanked. And it happened every season. The Europa League is a new journey.

Whilst it might be a lesser competition, it is a trophy regardless.

I looked on at Manchester United with a tint of jealousy as they cruised past Ajax to lift the trophy in Stockholm. Yes, I mocked as they lifted up 3 fingers as Jose Mourinho celebrated winning the worst treble ever – Community Shield, League Cup, Europa League – but the fact remained that they had secured 2 trophies (albeit minor) and won the glorified friendly that is the Community Shield.

At the weekend, I mentioned to a pal that I would rather finished 10th in the Premier League and win the Europa League, than finish 4th in the league and end the season trophyless.

I am certainly not a trophy snob, and were Arsenal to win the Europa League, it would be a 4th trophy in 5 years. Not a bad return for a club in crisis.

The chances of winning the Europa League could depend on what team we put out. I expect us to follow the Manchester United blueprint and play the 2nd string in the group stages, before slowly filtering in senior players as the competition go’s on.

As last season went on, and Manchester United’s title challenge, and then top 4 challenge, slipped away, their priorities changed. Rather than focusing on making the top 4, they realised winning the Europa League got them a trophy and a place in the Champions League.

It will be good to see some youngsters get a run out tomorrow. Some young boys we can really get behind.

Alongside the youngster, there will still be some senior pros. I expect David Ospina to start in goal. A defence with Per Mertsacker in the middle, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers either side. Both young Englishman can learn a lot from the German.

It will be interesting to see who we play at wing back. I can see Wenger giving a run out to Mathieu Debuchy on the right. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gone, Debuchy is back up for Hector Bellerin in the Premier League. Although we might also see Maitland-Niles start there. In-fact, I think that is how he will go.

Actually, scrap that, it will be Maitland-Niles on the left, and Debuchy on the right.

With Francis Coquelin out injured, I would expect to see Jack Wilshere come into the middle of the park alongside Mohamed Elneny. An experienced middle of the park which should allow us to control most games.

Alex Iwobi will be giving a key role playing behind the strikers. It is easy to forget that he is still just 21. He is a young talent and it will be good to see him get a good run in the team in both the Europa League and League Cup this season.

Next to him is a conundrum. Will Wenger go for Theo Walcott? Or will he give a chance to Jeff Reine-Adélaïde or Reiss Nelson? Personally I would prefer the later. We all know what Walcott can and can not do, and whilst it would be tempting to give him game time to keep him sharp, it would be more beneficial in the long term to either give Jeff or Nelson a run out.

Add in Olivier Giroud up top – or Theo Walcott if we go for Jeff or Nelson – and we have an exciting mix of young talent and established players.

Hopefully throughout the campaign, we can continue watching the likes of Chambers, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Jeff and Nelson grow as players. And even see the comeback kid Jack Wilshere force his way into first team reckoning.

I have already booked up the away game against Cologne. Belgrade is tempting. Talk of a 9 hour night train? And after Christmas, we could have some very interesting trips.

Last season, in the knock-outs, Manchester United had trips to Saint-Étienne, Rostov, Anderlecht and Celta Vigo, before finishing up in Stocklholm.

It is almost tempting fate to book the Eurostar to Lyon now!

Keenos

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Cheap Arsenal tickets and Cologne still not sold out

Numerous times in the past I have blogged about my dislike for Champions League football.

A mixture between having the same old opponents, the same predictable performances from Arsenal, my dislike for UEFA and their money making machine, and my total dislike for mid week football.

Whilst I understood the annoyance of many when we made the Europa League, both due to finishing below Spurs and the financial implications, I really was not that bothered. At least we are in a competition we might win.

Making the Europa League also saw my season ticket drop dramatically.

There are 11 of us going out to Germany for the match against Cologne – trains rather than flying – and it is going to be a quality 3 day bender with a good bunch of people. But I digress.

For years many of us have complained about match ticket prices. Season tickets are too expensive. Single match day tickets are too expensive – peaking at £126.It is alienating the normal fan. A dad can no longer take his 2 sons to a game without taking out a second mortgage.

Taking into account how many people complain online about ticket prices, it came as a shock that tickets for Cologne in the Europa League were still on sale.

 

Tickets are now on sale via the Friends and Family service to all valid members of the Arsenal membership using the Ticketfast print at home facility. This service allows Arsenal members to buy an additional 4 tickets on their membership account.

So a member can now buy an additional 4 tickets on their membership account – on top of the one they are already allowed to buy, making it 5 in total.

The reason I am surprised tickets are on sale is due to how cheap the tickets are:

Junior Gunners can but tickets for as low as £4.25. Adult tickets start at £15.50 and the most expensive tickets are £23.50. These are dirt cheap.

Even if your lads are not  Junior Gunner’s, a dad can take his 2 kids for around £75 max, if he go’s for the most expensive tickets.

What has happened to all those people who constantly moan about ticket prices? Why have they not picked up tickets for a Thursday night game?

Last season in the Champions League we played PSG at the group stages. My ticket for that game was £64. The most expensive tickets were £126. The game sold out in no time, and I was able to shift my ticket on the ticket exchange with no problem.

What I am getting it is how so many people seem to pay lip-service to ticket prices. They use it as an excuse not to go to games, but when tickets are more than reasonable – it is cheaper to go to Cologne v Arsenal than the next Leyton Orient home fixture in the Conference – they also do not go.

It is no surprise tickets are so high when people eat up the Cat A tickets within seconds, yet the Cat C and EL4GS tickets struggle to sell out.

My theory is ticket prices are not the problem. The problem is too many fans want to pick and choose what game to go to. They do not want to go to Stoke, Doncaster or Cologne. They only care about going to see Arsenal play Man U, Chelsea or Bayern Munich.

When I go to games, home and away, over land and sea, I only care about seeing Arsenal. I go for the Gunners. Sadly it seems many of our fickle fan base only want to go to the big games.

If you are one of those who moans all day on Twitter about ticket prices, and are not taking advantage of £15.50 ticket prices for Cologne, then you have no right to moan about the £126 tickets for when you want to see Arsenal play Man U.

Go for The Arsenal, not the opponents.

Keenos

 

What is Arsenal’s “dream” and “nightmare” Europa League draw?

The best and worse of Arsenal’s Europa League opponents

Usually at this time of year, I write a blog about what is the best and worst that an Arsenal fan can hope for from the Champions League draw. I take this into account such as:

  • Randomness of trip
  • Places we have not been before
  • Stadium capacity
  • Potential cost
  • Difficulty of opponent

Last year I declared that PSG would be a great draw, as whilst it would be a tough game, the proximity to London meant a good crowd would go. I also suggested Ludogorets would be decent due to them playing in Sofia, the cheapness, and being semi-professional cow farmers.

I went to PSG away, and it was a top trip. A few of my lot went to Bulgaria, and they drank their body weight in alcohol for about £5 a night. Great trips had by one and all.

What we did not want last season was the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Dortmund or Olympiakos. Trips which it felt like we had made far too often recently. We avoided them, for the group stages at least.

This season it is not about the Champions League for Arsenal, but about the Europe League. This means a greater chance of venturing into the unknown.

With 12 groups, it means it will be impossible for Arsenal to play a half decent side in the group stages. The likes of Villarreal, Lyon and Lazio are in pot 1 alongside the top seed Arsenal.

Whilst the quality of potential opponents is not much to worry about, there are certainly some opponents that will lead to all my lot saying IN when we are drawn against them, and FUCK THAT.

So looking at the seedings, who are the ones I want, and the ones I really do not:

Pot 2

Pot 2 looks fairly depressing. You can take Everton out straight away, as you are unable to play sides from your own country. Do we really want Marseille again? And Ludogorets Razgrad we played last year. Everyone says it was a cracking trip, but it is never as great the second time around.

A cheeky trip to Berlin could be interesting – although I am bored of Germany (more later). I like the idea of Nice in early September. Bit of Riviera weather. But they are the best side in Pot 2.

Trips to Israel (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Russia (Lokomotiv Moscow), Switzerland (Young Boys) and Belarus (BATE Borisov) are of little to no interest.

San Sebastian (Real Sociedad) is supposed to be a great city, Steaua București ticks a lot of boxes for a cheap Eastern European jaunt.

Best Draw: Steaua București

Worst Draw: Lokomotiv Moscow

Pot 3

There are two German sides in Pot 3. You want to avoid both of them. Pretty much every Arsenal has been there and done that in Germany in recent years. We voted out. We want nothing to do with you Angela.

We can also tick off Astana and Hapoel Be’er Sheva. I have no interest visiting their countries. Also Atalanta is a no go. There are better places in Italy that I have want to, and have, visited.

Zorya Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine does not turn me on. Whilst a trip to Moldova to see us play Sheriff Tiraspol would be an interesting option that we would not usually get in the Champions League.

Rosenberg is certainly an option. Norway one of those countries yet to be explored. As is Portuguese side Vitória de Guimarães. Although there are others which I would prefer.

A trip to Belgium (Zulte Waregem) will always prick the ears up after the Anderlecht trip that I stupidly sold my tickets for. And Belgrade for Partizan is one that will tick those who want the Eastern Europe experience.

For me the stand out is Rijeka in Croatia. That just sounds like it will be a great trip.

Best Draw: Rijeka

Worst Draw: Either German side

Pot 4

Turkey (İstanbul Başakşehir & Konyaspor). No thanks. Same as Greece (AEK Athens) and Switzerland (Lugano).

Do We want to play Chelsea B (Vitesse)? And I am not too bothered about Macedonia or Albania.

Both Czech sides will always be of interest, and the same for Red Star Belgrade (see Partizan above).

Sweden (Östersund), like Norway, is one that you would be tempted by.

Apollon Limassol in September anyone? Cyprus. Hot. Yes please. That is the one.

Best Draw: Apollon Limassol

Worst Draw: Either Turkish side

So in summary:

Dream Draw: Steaua București, Rijeka & Apollon Limassol

Nightmare Draw: Lokomotiv Moscow, Either German side, Either Turkish side

The reality is, like last year in the Champions League, you want 3 solid options for an away trip offering a mixture of everything.

Draw time: 12-ish

Keenos