The disaster at Liverpool has turned many fans’ minds into mush. And rightly so. There are no positives to take from such a toothless and weak display. Fortunately, the unrelenting procession of games offers a much-needed distraction. Arsenal play Slavia Prague on Thursday and will be hoping to put in a vastly improved performance than the one against the Merseyside club.
On paper, Slavia Prague is a much easier opponent than other big-name teams challenging for a European title: Manchester United, Ajax, Roma and Villarreal are all still in the mix.
It is certain that Arsenal will not take the easy way; they will make mistakes; they will gift chances. Fans are used to Arsenal taking the hard way. In spite of this, Mikel Arteta should be looking to shake up the starting lineup and take full advantage of this match up to blood new youngsters in the games in and around European football.
The likes of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe all had dazzling displays in the Europa League before stepping up for contention in the starting lineup in the Premier League. Given the faltering of more experienced players, rotating in some hungry and competitive academy products would be a smart decision on all fronts.
Arsenal vs Slavia Prague: Time for next round of youth as Miguel Azeez is due for squad involvement
Taking a risk on youth is what may have saved Arteta’s job in the first place. The three players mentioned above shone against Chelsea on that Boxing Day victory and provided the attacking impetus the team sorely craved. Lower level Europa League opposition will also give players a chance to get some experience as well as play with and learn from world-class players in a tense environment, even if it’s the biggest game of the entire season.
Youth players need to learn how to handle the pressure of playing on the big stage and blooding one or two kids into the squad against seemingly weaker opponents in a stadium with no fans is the right choice in getting them accustomed to the first-team set up.
The poor displays of certain first team stars hasn’t even been mentioned yet. The lack of quality in midfield was glaring against Liverpool. Giving Miguel Azeez a chance to play alongside Thomas Partey is surely better than watching Dani Ceballos or Mohamed Elneny meander aimlessly – it appears as if the supremely talented youngster will be in the squad for Thursday night.
Having Folarin Balogun or Nikolaj Moller on the bench as center forward options might bring out more in an attacking sense given the poor showing of the front three on Saturday.
Some of Arsenal’s most highly rated prospects were introduced in the Europa League. These fixtures against Slavia Prague are a wonderful opportunity for Arteta to keep the trend of introducing young players to the squad going. Do what saved you in the first place and introduce the kids.