Arsenal go into the final game of their Champions’ League Group assured of a place in the second round and Arsene Wenger has seen this as an opportunity to rest some of his senior players.
Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Per Mertesacker have all been asked to stay at home as Wenger looks to galvanise a side he felt looked jaded due to overbearing game time. After the 2-0 reverse against Swansea at The Emirates this weekend past he commented on the busy schedule and has taken the opportunity to rotate his squad. It gives him a chance to call upon some of the young talent at the club and give them an opportunity to feature at high level competition in the guise of Greek champions Olympiakos.
The last time Arsenal travelled to Greece in the Champions League was almost a year to the day when they were condemned to a 3-1 defeat at The Georgios Karaiskaki Stadium. On that day Arsenal found themselves in a similar situation and gave opportunities to the likes of Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong and Ignasi Miquel with Craig Eastmond, Nico Yennaris and Oguzhan Ozyakup all in the squad.
Once again Olympiakos greet a ‘lesser’ Arsenal team and despite the likes of Thomas Eisfeld and Hector Bellerin being ineligible and the trio of Serge Gnabry, Yennaris and Miquel all carrying slight knocks there is still plenty of young talent on show; and old stalwart Sebastian Squillaci unfortunately.
Looking at the team it looks as if Wenger will still keep it relatively safe by playing the senior players such as Carl Jenkinson, Thomas Vermaelen and Gervinho from the start. However one place where you would have to consider it a certainty a young player will get his chance is along the back line. While Jenkinson could be utilised alongside Squillaci in central defence and Coquelin moved to full-back that then leaves the central midfield position lacking strength.
So what are the options?
Martin-Yves Angha started the League Cup tie against Coventry City earlier in the season which could indicate he has a head start at partnering Squillaci at centre half. Sead Hajrovic and Elton Monteiro - who we ran a feature on yesterday - could also perform this function in the heart of defence. If Wenger wanted to operate with an experienced centre-back pairing there is always the option of playing Vermaelen with Squillaci and then using Jernade Meade, who featured in the epic League Cup win against Reading, at left-back.
Who would you play? Angha, Monteiro, Hajrovic or Meade?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald