Tag Archives: Europa League

Arsenal’s European journey set to continue

Tonight Arsenal could qualify for the Europa League knock out stages after just 4 games. Victory will ensure that a top 2 place is guaranteed. If BATE Borisov fail to beat FC Koln, top place is ensure with 2 games to go.

Now I am not going to celebrate too much, as I understand that the Europa League is the 2nd tier of European football, but to qualify easily, having mainly used a second string and youth, is a positive.

I read yesterday someone saying Arsenal are disrespecting the Europa League by playing youngsters and a 2nd string. I laugh that we have won 3 from 3 whilst playing the second string. We have put out the players needed to win the games.

Meanwhile, the likes of Everton, Athletic Bilbao and Hertha Berlin are heading out of the competition.

Arsenal might not be giving the competition 100% of their focus, but we are doing enough to get through and, like Manchester United last season, will surely increase the strength of the side as the competition progresses.

A lot of people look down on the Europa League, they scoff at it, but it is a competition I would love to win.

An early summer final in Lyon. In the South of France with my mates. The type of people who sit and say I would rather be in the Champions League and not win, than the Europa League and win probably never go to games. They watch on TV.

The same sort of people probably moan that we have only won the FA Cup in recent years. We have won it 3 times actually. 3 times in 4 years.

Spurs beat Real Madrid last night. Oddly a lot of Arsenal fans on Twitter were saying how brilliant they were. How they had shown Arsenal how to play in Europe. That it had shown great progression.

But they forget Spurs have won nothing. Even Mauricio Pochettino said last night that beating Real Madrid means nothing if we win nothing.

It is the odd mentality of the modern football fan that winning a single game, like that against Real Madrid, is deemed as good as winning a trophy.

Last week, Spurs were knocked out of the League Cup by West Ham. They justified their collapse by saying that they had bigger fish to fry. This is a side that have won just two League Cups in 26 years.

Fans have become picky about what trophies they want their club to win. It is like turning down the fat one from Little Mix because you want to shag the blonde one, yet the reality is you have no chance with the blonde one.

Beating Real Madrid might create a great, short term memory, but ultimately it means nothing.

As for Spurs showing Arsenal how to do it in Europe, last I looked, Arsenal had no problems getting through the knockout stages of the Champions League with games to spare. Spurs are not doing anything miraculous, anything unique.

Now if they win it, it is another story, but the reality is there is no difference if they fail to qualify or get knocked out in the semi-final. Bar some trips away (many of which Arsenal fans have already done), you end up with nothing. No trophies. An empty cabinet.

Between 1995/96 and 1996/97 Newcastle United finished 2nd twice, playing a brilliant brand of attacking football under Kevin Keegan. In 1997/98 they beat the mighty Barcelona at home in the Champions League, Faustino Asprilla scoring a hat trick.

Bar a couple of FA Cup semi-finals in the following years, Newcastle won nothing. Their last domestic honour was the 1954–55 FA Cup.

Following on from Newcastle was Leeds United. A brilliant young side filled with English talent.

Leeds went on a brilliant Champions League run in 2001, culminating in a Champions League semi-final appearance. They lost.

The previous year, they made the UEFA Cup semi-final. They also lost.

Both Newcastle and Leeds were relegated in the mid 00’s. They won nothing during their successful periods. Everyone loved them. The odd folk who have second teams cheered them on.

Ultimately, if you fail to win trophies, it does not really matter how many brilliant nights in the San Siro or Wembley you have. These games will just be forgotten into history.

And this is why I want us to win the Europa League.

Last season Manchester United won both the Europa League and League Cup. Some people scoffed at them, laughing at them just winning minor honours. But what did fans of the clubs laughing at them win? Probably nothing.

Yes, they finished 6th, but in winning the Europa League they secured Champions League football.

Give me finishing 6th and winning two trophies over finishing 2nd and winning nothing any day. Some might say but we want to progress in the league, be competitive in the league but there is no trophy for that. No one remembers who finished 2nd.

These same people probably laughed at Arsenal winning the top 4 trophy. And now they laugh that Arsenal did not make the top 4 yet won a real trophy in the Europa League.

The moral of the story is simple, nothing matters until you win a trophy.

As for the Europa League, there could be some interesting sides dropping into the Europa League: CSKA Moscow, Celtic, Atlético Madrid, Sporting Lisbon, Spartak Moscow, Napoli, RB Leipzig & Borussia Dortmund currently occupy 3rd place in their groups.

I have no qualms about playing any of these.

Because we are the Arsenal and we are the best. We are the Arsenal so f**k all the rest.

Enjoy the game tonight.

Keenos

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BATE victory, Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere

BATE Borisov result

Like the wins against Cologne and Doncaster, not much can be read into them.

Another run out for Jack Wilshere (more latter) and Reiss Nelson looked good (let’s not overhype – Jermaine Jenas compared him to Neymar).

The important things is we win. And our Europa League journey is set to continue.

Olivier Giroud

He has never been everyone’s cup of tea, but this weekend Olivier Giroud scored his 100th Arsenal goal.

He joined the club in 2012, having been Ligue 1 top scorer as Montpellier lifted the French title.

A big, tall strong man, he certainly was not the nippy Thierry Henry, skilful Emmanuel Adebayor, or deadly Robin van Persie that fans had been used to.

But what  Giroud did have are a very particular set of skills. Skills he had acquired over a very long career. Skills that make him a nightmare for defences. 

It was a set of skills that many fans did not appreciate. And still do not appreciate. But his stats speak for themselves. In his 6th year at the club, he has hit 100 goals. Not bad for a player who has never been guaranteed a first team spot. A man who most fans call deadwood. A lamppost, even. A player who fans continually deride.

That 100 goals has come in 237 games. So how does he stack up against other Arsenal greats?

Jack Wilshere

Jack Wilshere had another good game following on from his performance against Doncaster. But fans calling for him to start against Brighton are premature.

Wilshere is a brilliant player. Our best central midfielder when fit. But he has had a horrendous time with injuries, and needs to be protected.

2 games in 4 days will be a recipe for disaster. It makes him an injury waiting to happen.

Let me put it another way, he plays against Brighton, gets injured, what will you all be saying.

“Why has Wenger played him twice in 4 days. He is being over played again.”

With an international break coming up, Wilshere will get some more R&R. After the break we have Watford. Wilshere should be on the bench.

After Watford, we face 3 weeks of midweek and weekend football. It is the midweek games which Wilshere should play.

Belgrade, Norwich, Belgrade. Play him in those games. Let him continue his rehabilitation.

If you are calling for him to play on Sunday, check your tweets from days past. Have you moaned at home being over played? If yes, you are doing exactly the opposite. Demanding he be overplayed.

 

Hope everyone has got back safely

Keenos

 

Arsenal set for weakened XI against BATE Borisov

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:

  1. Give youth a chance
  2. Keep senior players who are not playing week in week out a chance
  3. 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:

Macey

Holding Mertesacker Bielik

Nelson Wilshere Iwobi Niles

Jeff

Akpom Nketiah

Anyone out there today, enjoy yourself, and stay safe.

Keenos