What a strange world it is when you find yourself celebrating the return of Thursday night Eurotrash footy.
But given our Premier League woes of late, the Europa League has felt like a positive distraction. Hell, we’ve even scored some goals (nine in three games).
And tonight we’re away in Norway, playing our return fixture against Molde, who were the best of our opponents so far. I had thought Vienna would be the potential threat to us topping our group but Molde had a lot more about them.
They went a goal up against us at the Emirates and the eventual 4-1 score line in our favour flattered us (there were two own goals in the mix).
Although there will undoubtedly be a lot of changes from the team that Mikel Arteta would pick for a EPL game, I hope El Patron uses the opportunity to set us up in an attacking way and go for some goals.
It’s a chance for him to experiment with a more progressive formation, which he must surely be contemplating for the Premier League team as well.
The team news is that Elneny and Kolasinac are both still quarantined (although asymptomatic) as a Covid precaution; Saka, Partey and Willian have not travelled to Norway because of injuries, although the latter did fly to Antarctica to open a nightclub. OK, I made that bit up.
However David Luiz has travelled, following the birth of his baby daughter.
Victory would give us 12 points out of 12 and more or less guarantee that we top the group but I don’t see this being an easy game. I could see a 1-0 or 2-1 score line in Arsenal’s favour if we don’t sit back too much.
The Pepe question is an interesting one: Arteta seemed really angry with him after his red card at Leeds, but given that he is banned for three games in the Prem, surely it makes sense to use him against Molde and save someone else’s legs?
I would not be totally surprised to see Lacazette start (El Patron perhaps hoping to kick start a goal scoring run from the Frenchman), but I have gone with a line-up that I prefer.
Also, it would be great to see Emile Smith-Rowe get a full game in a playmaker role. A lot of Arsenal supporters have pinned their hopes on ESR as the answer to our lack of creativity. It may be asking too much of a very young and inexperienced player (certainly at EPL level) but we’ll never know unless we play him.
Here’s my stab at the line-up:
Soares – Mustafi – Luiz – Tierney
Willock – Xhaka – AMN
Pepe – Nketiah
Come On You Gunners.