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Guest Post – iBtM Europa League Preview

Last season’s final weeks dispelled the majority of the positive Arsenal feelings I’d squirreled away. The prospect of this coming season left me underwhelmed. And then there were droplets of good news. Celtic had agreed to our offer for Kieran Tierney. William Saliba was coming (and then going, of-course, it wouldn’t be Arsenal otherwise), a barrow load of dead and decaying wood was offloaded. Martinelli was coming and he was better than anyone had ever been. Ceballos, the future of Spain was coming. And finally, we signed Pepe, a mega star so mega that I’d never even heard of him in his galaxy beyond the stars!

And even better, our young players, Willock, Saka and Nelson, looked so, so promising in pre-season. All of a sudden, my mood changed and the arrow on the Arsenal barometer swung right round the clock face to “Sunny without a cloud in sight – piss of Sp*rs.” And it just kept getting better, we actually won an away game at Newcastle. At this rate it could only be a matter of time before we saw the green stuff inside Steve T’s wallet by the bar at the Tolly!

But life with Arsenal never flies forward on a constant upward vector. The current Arsenal are masters at installing a leaden lining in the fluffiest of silver clouds. And that little hole in the ceiling began to let in the first few droplets at the very mention of the word Watford and since then it has begun to look like it’s going to take more than a bottle of Brasso and some elbow grease to put a shine on anything that glitters silver unless there are some very fundamental changes in, well, just about everything except the Thursday nigh team. Which brings me beautifully to tonight’s game. See what I did there?

It is absolutely sluicing down here in East Herts making the prospect of the long March from the Faltering Fullback to the stadium one which is likely to fill shoes to the ankles with water. But Thursday night games have turned out to be well worth the physical discomfort and late mid-week annoyance. The Thursday night team plays like Arsenal for goodness sake. The goalkeeper doesn’t make three yard passes inside his box. The two full backs can actually defend. More, both can get forward at pace and cross accurate, dangerous balls which tee up shots and headers on goal. Xhaka doesn’t play on Thursdays and neither does Kolasinac but Rob Holding does.

We get to see Joe Willock do what Joe Willock does in a box to box role. How can someone glide so effortlessly and quickly over such an acreage and still get back to intercept dangerous attacks? Our man from Frey Bentos makes beefy challenges in his best role on Thursdays and Ainsley Maitland-Niles gets run outs in the midfield role that will one day be his.

And none of that is all. Did I tell you about up front? No? Well, up front is the best bit because we get to see the irrepressible Martinelli. We get to see Auba or Laca, we get to see Saka and when he’s not one get Nelson. And it is all so much different from the weekend team because this team plays Wengerball or Emery’s version thereof and it is actually a pleasure to be in the ground. The exact opposite of the second half versus Boureouth of last Monday’s wet night out in Sheffield.

So I’m looking forward to being soaked to the skin. It will be well worth it to see Kieran Tierney float balls into Martinelli to backheel to Laca to put us into dreamland and secure that Holic pound.

Am I a little worried that Holding, Tierney and Torreira tonight might mean they don’t start on Sunday? I’ll worry about that on Sunday, get back to me then.

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