Mikel Arteta has taken his charges to Norway a day early, as we prepare to brave near-Arctic temperatures as we face Molde in our next Europa League group fixture.
The cold will definitely be a factor in this match. With the highest temperature during the day being 6 degrees. So that will mean a likely temperature of our evening match being around two degrees – which will sort the men from the boys.
Nothing Kieran Tierney hasn’t seen before.
We are in good shape in our group though. Maximum wins so far from our three games against Molde at home, Rapid Vienna and Dundalk. And this is entirely expected too. We should be going into this full of confidence despite our erratic form in the Premier League and we should also realise that Molde are not a match for our team.
Despite that, they certainly gave us a few scares in the corresponding fixture, the 4-1 win a couple of weeks ago. We were inspired by the attacking instincts of Joe Willock but we need to stay on our toes if we want the points here. Maximum points will almost guarantee top spot in the group and a theoretically easier draw for the next round. Molde are second in the group and would be six behind with six points left to play for.
We could also grab a bit more confidence from a comprehensive win here. We need to go out with that killer instinct and really go for it. It would be good for our fringe players to get out and have a stress-free 090 – and a good display from them may well give the more established first teamers something to think about.
Who will Arteta go for in Norway?
Mo Elneny and Sead Kolasinac are still in self-isolation and didn’t travel with the squad. Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers are still not quite ready for the first team though they can’t be too far away, and the same could be said for Gabriel Martinelli, who is stepping up his first team training. Another who didn’t travel with the squad is Bukayo Saka who suffered a dead leg against Leeds, but should be fit for our match versus Wolves in the weekend.
Our recent draw against Leeds showed our defence in a great light and also highlighted the excellent defensive work that Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos put in to track runners. They both are in line to play here, although with Thomas Partey injured, they may be saved for our game versus Wolves this weekend. Ainsley Maitland-Niles could get a game in our midfield though. The same goes for Joe Willock.
In attack it is almost certain Nicolas Pepe will play, given he is now suspended for three games in the Premier League. His inclusion will keep Willian and Reiss Nelson, the likely starters in his absence, fresh for the big games. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will likely be rested for this one, and it will be a straight fight between Eddie Nketiah and Alex Lacazette for the strikers spot – and both need the start.
Arteta will definitely shake his eleven up here. Watch out for a return to the first team for Emile Smith-Rowe too, and a possible cameo from striking sensation Folarin Balogun.
Player to watch
The winger was the sole scorer for his side in our last game, played at The Emirates. He has a decent delivery and showed he can give our full-back problems. If we go to gung-ho, it will be Ellingsen who exploits the space with a well-timed pass or a burst into the box, he is capable of either. Could be outmuscled though if we stick someone like Xhaka on him.
How this could go
We should be looking to sew up the group with this game. Despite the cold, we will still be favourites – and the players lining up to get some minutes in this match should be more than eager for the chance to show what they can do.
I predict AMN to have a big say in the game. It’s been a while since he was able to stretch his legs for a game and he has shown he can be a real factor in the centre when he is permitted to.
We need to pass quickly and get a goal in the first half to ease ourselves. The longer a stalemate goes on, the more nerves will set in. Time for our strikers to bag a few as well – step forward Alex Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah.
Predicted Lineup – Leno, Cedric, Luiz, Mustafi, AMN, Willock, Xhaka, Ceballos, Pepe, Smith-Rowe, Nketiah
Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 to The Arsenal
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