4-2-3-1 – Arsenal Likely Line Up For Europa League Games

Technically, Arsenal are still in the running for three trophies in the 2017-18 season.

Technically.

If Arsenal win all the rest of their games in either the league or the Carabao Cup and Man City lose all the rest of their games in both competitions then Arsenal could pip some silverware there, but that is about as likely as Arsene Wenger showing up to match day in a fishnet tank top.

That leaves the Gunners in about the same situation as Jose and Man United found themselves last season: in desperate need of a Europa League title, not just for the trophy cabinet so much as for that precious Champions League invite that elite clubs need in order to retain world class talents.

In the first Europa knockout round the Gunners face Swedish media darlings Ostersunds FK, who like RB Leipzig have charged from the lower divisions to fringes of European competition but unlike their German counterparts, the Swedish club has done so through the timeless power of art and camaraderie rather than regular cash injections from their corporate overlords. While outclassed on paper, OFC have been punching above their weight for a solid three years now, and are full of belief at the moment.

European fixtures are always a little tricky, and Wenger’s lineup choices for this round are further complicated by the Carabao Cup Final against Man City three days after the second leg, with a league visit from the presumptive champions immediately to follow. Expect Arsenal to field a strong away side for the first leg of the round in the hope of being able to rest some of their studs for the Cup Final and a shot at toppling the Peps.

The importance of the first away leg should see Wenger depart from his youth heavy cup preferences. Like the majority of European matches this season, David Ospina will be in goal, but we should expect to see more familiar names in front of him now that the Gunners are out of group play.

The three-man back line that worked so well to close the 16/17 campaign did not survive the transition to a new season. Wenger has been leaning even more on a back four away from Emirates of late, and that trend should continue. The Koscielny and Mustafi partnership will provide the discipline against the break and some set piece threat, while Bellerin and a returning Monreal threaten down the flanks.

The midfield Arsenal field will indicate how aggressive Wenger intends to be about the away leg. Aaron Ramsey was in some of the best form of his life before he caught a hamstring injury against Southampton, and  his return should see Iwobi back to the bench. The flexible Welshman and the rejuvenated Jack Wilshire offer a great balance of craft and industry alongside midfield enforcer Granit Xhaka. Having those three in support will free Ozil and newboy Mkhitaryan to be their flowing, expressive best.

Alexander Lacazette is the perfect forward for the way Wenger wants to play, and swapping the selfish petulance of their former Chilean star for the more generous creativity of the Armenian playmaker should only magnify the French forward’s qualities.

Even though super-sub Giroud has left for Chelsea, Iwobi, Elneny, Kolasinac, Holding, and Welbeck will give Wenger lots of ways to change the game from his bench, able to move to either a 3-man or a 5-man back line while having quality to boost the attack and chase the game should it be necessary.

A two or three away-goal cushion should put the tie mostly to bed, and give Arsenal a chance to rest some legs and make a real run at the Carabao Cup final against City.

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