Arsenal play Östersunds FK in the second leg of their round-of-32 tie on Thursday night, and with a cup final at the weekend, you can expect changes to the starting lineup.
Arsenal take a 3-0 aggregate lead into the match at the Emirates after a professional win in Sweden. After that match, Arsene Wenger told the media he hadn’t decided on this week’s lineup yet, but might rest some players.
“I will try to win the game again,” he insisted. “Maybe I will rotate and play the players who didn’t play tonight and rest one or two players.”
There are one or two players who certainly won’t be involved in the match.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is cup-tied, and Aaron Ramsey is still recovering from injury. Ramsey is back in training with the group as of Wednesday morning, but Wenger said last week he certainly won’t be available for Thursday’s match.
Mesut Özil has been sick again this week, so he won’t play either.
Wenger says Ozil has been sick this week and won't play tomorrow: "He was in bed Monday, Tuesday for sickness. I would certainly have played him, but because he was sick he will have to work hard tomorrow and will not be involved (in the game)." Mkhitaryan will play.
— Mattias Karén (@MattiasKaren) February 21, 2018
On the other hand, Henrikh Mkhitaryan will certainly start against Östersund.
He is cup-tied for the League Cup final, so there’s no point giving him a rest.
Arsene Wenger confirmed the Armenian will play on Thursday, as well as Danny Welbeck.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 21, 2018
Wenger confirms Danny Welbeck will start against Ostersund tomorrow.
— James Olley (@JamesOlley) February 21, 2018
Meanwhile, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah all missed out on Arsenal’s u23 match on Monday, so they’ll all probably play some part.
After that, it’s a guessing game at who Wenger might pick, and who he’ll rest.
Wenger confirmed David Ospina will start on Thursday and Sunday. That’s no surprise, as both competitions are generally reserved for him.
Sead Kolašinac will likely come in for Nacho Monreal, given the Spaniard’s recent injury concerns.
Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny should start in the final, so Wenger has Per Mertesacker, Calum Chambers and Rob Holding to choose from against Östersund.
In order to give Hector Bellerin a rest, I’m guessing the boss will start all three.
Assuming Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka are saved for the final, that doesn’t leave many options.
It’s possible Wilshere will play in both matches, but given his injury history, I doubt it.
Xhaka hasn’t played a single minute of Europa League football, and now would be a strange time to start.
As mentioned, Joe Willock didn’t play for the u23s on Monday. He’s already started three Europa League games this season, and this should be his fourth.
Mohamed Elneny will provide some experience, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will hopefully get another chance in the middle after last week.
In the front three, I’m optimistic that Reiss Nelson will get a chance alongside Mkhitaryan. He’s performed excellently in the u23s, and it will give Mesut Özil that sick break ahead of the cup final.
As mentioned above, Danny Welbeck will start up front, so Eddie Nketiah will have to settle for a place on the bench.
It’s very possible that Alex Iwobi will start, but with the doubts about Ramsey’s fitness, I think he’ll be saved for the cup final.
4. Line up
4-3-3: Ospina; Chambers, Holding, Mertesacker, Kolašinac; Elneny, Willock, Maitland-Niles; Nelson, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck.