Probably not a night off for all our first team players as a few are bound to be on the bench just in case. Mustafi is likely to start because Mikel Arteta’s options are limited. Only he and Gabriel are fully fit.
Mikel Arteta held his pre-match press conference yesterday and besides the stupid questions about Mesut Ozil being on social media, Mustafi’s alleged new contract offer which he’s supposed to have rejected, he was eventually asked about tonight’s opposition Dundalk.
We’ve got some Irish staff here and there are a lot of positive things about them. From what I’ve seen they’ve got a really determined coach that has found a really good cohesion with the team. You can see in every reaction when they are playing, how united they are. They’re really well organised, they make it really hard and they will be coming here with incredible passion. They’re underdogs and that will give them a lot of energy and I expect them to be at full gas tomorrow, trying to beat us here.
Not sure about them being a full gas, in fact I’d imagine they’ll turn up in a number 52 bus and park it in front of their keeper and why wouldn’t they? Dundalk lost their opening Europa League Cup fixture against Molde so a point at The Emirates would be a good result for them. Manager Filippo Giovagnoli will know all about our tepid attacking play so he’ll probably try and emulate Brendan Rogers tactics. Boring defence and hit us on the break. After all, as a player he was a defender.
Filippo Giovagnoli arrived at Ireland’s Premier League club this summer and has steered his team through the qualifying rounds in this competition to reach the group stage. He’s reported to have said that he’d have loved to have been in the same group as the Toots. To meet Mourinho he said but I reckon it was more about fancying his teams chances against them.
Seriously though, it seems to me that this journey for Giovagnoli and his players is a bit of a dream come true. No one really expects them to progress from the group so they have nothing to lose. To be playing in a stadium such as ours will be something to relish rather than fear. They’ll fancy an upset that’s for sure. An interesting factoid, apart from four English players and one American, their squad is made up of home players. Something rarely seen in the English Leagues.
For once though, Arsenal fans might get to see a few more homegrown players in action as Mikel Arteta will surely rest a number of first team players. One should be Reiss Nelson who turned down a season out on loan to stay and fight for a place in the first team.
It was mixed reasons, Reiss was really convinced that he wanted to fight to stay here. And when you see that willingness and that passion and that security in a player, you feel tempted to keep him even though you know that opportunities are going to be restricted and he is not going to have a lot of continuity in his play.
I wonder though if Mikel Arteta’s view on Reiss, others too, might change. He’s talked about how he has to find a solution to our lack or creativity and killer instinct in front of goal so perhaps that solution is right under his nose but he just doesn’t see it or isn’t prepared to take the risk.
I’m not trying to suggest that all the ‘younger’ player should be thrown into the first team tonight or on any other occasion but just sometimes, a player can spring a surprise. Willock, Nketiah, Saka, AMN have all had minutes on the pitch under Arteta when he first arrived but this, season barring Saka, they seem to have been cast aside. Especially Reiss Nelson.
Surely tonight is the night for a number of these English guys to get minutes on the pitch. If they do, I truly hope they give Arteta something to think about and something for Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang, Ceballos and Xhaka to worry about…
Enjoy the game guys.