LEICESTER/ARSENAL PREVIEW:- SHOULD WE NOW PRIORITIZE THE EUROPA CUP?
Yes, I think we should. That is why we should find it easy to rest Koscielny who has now played every minute of our last 5 games in only 13 days. That is also why we should forgive Skodram Mustafi of his grievous error in the Palace match and give him a starting berth against the Foxes.
We rest Ozil too, not because he is close to the red zone, but because we want him at his best in our first match against Valencia which is at home sweet home. Aubameyang was absent from the Wolves match after a minor medical procedure so is rested to join the rest of the squad, not out injured, in contention to start.
Prioritizing the Europa at this moment, of course, should not mean abandoning the Premiership campaign to its own fate. If Chelsea lose or draw its game against Man United at Old Trafford and we win ours, the destiny of a top 4 finish falls back into our hands. Instantly the Premiership becomes the priority again with two winnable games home and away left for the season versus the potential three games of the Europa Cup. Luckily there is a good four days of rest between Leicester and Valencia so Emery can comfortably choose his strongest away side (whatever that might mean) bar Koscielny who should be close to the red zone. Also not to be overlooked in the calculation is that the four teams battling for the two remaining two Champions League spots all seem to be laboring under their more exhaustive season’s schedule. The four have been losing unexpected points. The latest is Spurs 0-1 to West Ham.
What’s become of Lichsteiner? A burst up or now decrepit? Strange that he doesn’t even appear on the bench in spite of the congestion of games and our miserably thin squad. Just wondering.
We need Laca and Auba playing together. Laca plays deep like a false 9 yet we do not have midfielders who know how to run past their striker (except injured Ramsey). That explains why we lack sufficient threat in the box when Laca is fielded as the lone striker. It should follow that when Ramsey is unavailable, as he is now, it should never be Laca alone. Against Wolves we had only one shot on target and that from a defender in a set piece, our 71% possession notwithstanding. On the other hand, Auba who is a natural box prowler fits the lone striker role with a midfield like ours that is only good at progressing the ball forward. I hope he passes his late fitness test otherwise Nketiah should start alongside Laca.
If am Emery, I would stop all these video study of teams outside the top six. I would stop giving them too much respect. The onus should be on them to solve us not the other way round. Leicester City should be the ones studying our videos and spending sweat working out how to respond to us. With teams outside of the top six, I totally embrace Wengerism: get unto the field and just do your stuff. So sorry if you were expecting some lines from me on City under Brendan Rogers. Yes they are trying to keep a little bit more possession … and so what?
My line up for the Leicester game:
Bench: Cech, Koscielny, Elneny, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Nketiah.
I feel calm or resigned, don’t really know which but exactly the way I feel 35,000 feet above mean sea level, my fate completely in somebody else’s hands. I imagine that’s the way the players must be feeling too. Who knows, it might be what they need to come up with a more assured performance. Meanwhile I bank on United not losing their 8th game in ten matches. Spurs 1-0 loss at their new stadium to West Ham is a timely reminder that the battle is not over until it is over.