The dilemma referred to in the headline is this: given that we have already qualified from our Europa League group, should we use tonight’s visit of Rapid Vienna to rest as many players as possible; or do we start some of the senior players in an attempt to rebuild confidence?
The down side to the second option is that we have a monster game looming on the horizon: away at the Armitage Shanks Arena in N17 against the table-topping Spuds, a fixture in which we can only hope that the opposition will be distracted by the nosebleeds they’ll be suffering from the unfamiliar altitude.
If we had a less high profile fixture on Sunday I think El Patron might even be tempted to start Aubameyang against the Austrians tonight to get his scoring juices flowing, with a view to starting him again on Sunday.
But given that there are only 67 hours between the end of tonight’s game and kicking off against the Spuds, I suspect Arteta will play it safe and stick with a similar team to the one that has started recent EL games. After all, caution seems to be our manager’s guiding principle at the moment, even though it’s not serving him well.
In fact Arteta may decide to send out an even weaker team this evening if, for example, he is planning to start Willock at Totteringham.
Kolasinac is available again after his stint in Covid quarantine, Partey is still out with his thigh injury but due to rejoin first team training. It’s highly unlikely he’ll be available for the weekend (sadly).
Here’s my guess at the team:
Soares – Mustafi – Holding – Kolasinac
Willock – Xhaka – Smith-Rowe
Pepe – Lacazette – Nelson
I’ve put Xhaka in the team in the expectation that he will not be starting on Sunday after his awful game against Wolves. And I have left Ainsley Maitland-Niles out because I am hoping he will start at the weekend and be given the job of marking Bale out of the game.
Vienna were disappointing in the first leg and whatever team we put out should expect to win tonight.
The Europa League is providing our only enjoyment at the moment so here’s to another entertaining outing and to us hitting our EL average of three goals per game.
In other news, I made the point in yesterday’s Post that I would like to see us get a fast, big, powerful centre forward in the January window. “Someone like Olivier Giroud from five years ago,” I said. I guess that must have rankled with Big Ollie because, as you may have seen, he banged in four goals for the Chavs last night.