Busy few days coming up with a Europa second leg tie taking place on Thursday followed by a League Cup final match on Sunday. But don’t worry, Arsene has it all under controls (as do we at ArsenalSA – read on!). This second leg of our Europa fixture against Ostersunds FK at home has been made somewhat easier by a solid display by the Gunners in Sweden last Thursday. It was never going to be a walk over as their record showed, having won all their home games bar one, which they drew. But Arsenal battled the elements and the artificial pitch to put in a mature display that saw them come home with a three goal lead. It may have been only two goals, but Ospiiiiiina saved that injury time penalty which gives Wenger a bit more breathing room with his team selection on Thursday. I’m expecting a very junior side smattered with the odd senior player, similar to what he put out during the qualifying section of this competition. He did release a few players over the January transfer window which has reduced our squad depth however the match should be less tricky away from that artificial surface which hid a layer of permafrost beneath it.
Our injury list does not look good with Lacazette and Ramsey both out for both matches. Wenger no longer has the luxury of Giroud, Sanchez and Walcott up front and so I’d expect him to stick pretty much with Welbeck as his main attacking option, although, even he may only get a partial game as he may be required on Sunday, if only as a back up off the bench. I think both Nketiah and Nelson could cover that attacking role. Mkhitaryan is cup tied so will not take part of the Cup final on Sunday, so I would expect him to play the full game on Thursday. Maitland-Niles and Elneny should also figure in midfield with a back three/five including Kolasinac, Holding and Chambers with maybe Mavropanos making an appearance. I would also expect to see Macey in goal with Ospina held back for the Sunday game. Thursday night will reveal all and to be honest, we don’t have to do too much to get through. I suppose the team instructions will be “Don’t play like you played against Nottingham Forest” – that should do it!
Sunday is our only chance of domestic silverware this season and we tend to perform well at Wembley in cup games. Unfortunately, as previously stated, we will more than likely be without our Wembley talisman, Ramsey. The silver lining here is that Pep will not know how Wenger will line his side up (yes, I know I’m clutching at straws) and Wilshere definitely has a point to prove. Wenger will do all he can to put the following line-up out there: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles or Elneny, Xhaka, Wilshere, Iwobi, Ozil & Aubameyang. It leaves us a little light in the attacking options and maybe Welbeck will start with Maitland-Niles/Elneny dropping to the bench.
So, let’s talk about Sunday. As you are aware, DSTV are not showing the game as has been their wont this season. So what are you going to do? Bit of a no-brainer here as The Arsenal club of South Africa and The Brazenhead have put their heads together and will be showing the match live for all you Arsenal supporters. Just be aware that the match will be streamed and if you know the layout of the Brazenhead, it will only be showing on the four flat screen TVs on the outside patio as well as on the big screen in the small Wine Cellar room where we normally meet. Because the match is being streamed, the quality may not be great and there may be buffering at times, so please, do not lose your cool. I was at The Brazenhead this evening and we had a trial run which went very well. The display on the screens was much better than on my laptop so hopefully we will get the same result this Sunday. We are also going to have a raffle with some great prizes, so come through early and make an afternoon of it. No bookings can be made so the earlier you arrive the more likely you are to get a good seat.