With qualification already secured, it is the position Arsenal qualify from that matters tonight in Greece. Arsenal and Schalke have already progressed to the last 16, but if the German side fails to win against Montpellier, Arsenal can leapfrog them into top spot in the group should they win.
However, Arsene Wenger has, like in 2 of the past 3 seasons, decided to take a weakened, inexperienced side to Greece with him. There are 5 players in the squad that could make their first-team debuts tonight. Zak Ansah, Sead Hajrovic, Elton Monteiro, Chuba Akpom and James Shea. The squad is as follows:
Thomas Vermaelen (c)
Ok… so looking down that list and I can make a note about most of them. Rosicky is only just back from an injury and isn’t the sort of player that makes the difference between winning and losing like say a Jack Wilshere can.
Chamberlain is still a youngster and is one of the most recognisable names on the list.
Squillaci hasn’t featured in a game all season – League Cup included.
Arshavin has the talent to be playing in real first-team games. He could be off in January but I hope he can show up tonight.
Gervinho – I have come to the conclusion that he is pretty well useless.
Chamakh deserved a chance in first-team after brace at Reading. Hasn’t featured since. Hope he scores again tonight. Will have no confidence though.
A lot of the names on the list afterwards provoke the word ‘who?’. Meade is playing left-back potentially, will be interesting to watch as I remember him more as a left midfielder, but looking on his profile on the club website, it says he can play both. Mind you, Andre Santos can apparently play both too, and we know that he is awful at defending!.
Wenger says Arsenal are ‘jaded’ so he will rest his players ahead of this weekend’s game against West Brom. Arsenal have played Olympiakos in 2009/10 and 2011/12 in the group stages of the Champions League. They have won the home games against the Greek side and you can include this season in that too, but they always seem to face Olympiakos away in the final group game and with qualification already secured, Arsenal have fielded a weakened side, like they will tonight, and have lost both times. I expect a similar sort of outcome tonight with the youngsters losing. Olympiakos have Europa League football ahead of them with 3rd spot in the group secured, so it’s just a matter of pride for them tonight.
Looking at the way that the groups are shaping up, 2nd spot wouldn’t be terrible, with a lot of good sides currently occupying 2nd place in their groups. However, Arsenal are usually drawn against Barcelona when they finish 2nd in their group and it would just our luck if we were handed that tie again!.
Despite the rest that this game will bring, I’m struggling to see Arsenal winning either tonight or at the weekend. In truth, I’ve had my eye on Bradford in the League Cup for a while now, as I realised a while ago that this was the only trophy we have any chance of winning. It would just like Arsenal to humiliate themselves at Bradford though, especially if the reserves are playing, which is more than likely.