Our first away day of the Europa League campaign sees us travel all the way to Belarus tonight to face BATE Borisov.
Going into our visit to the Belarussian champions we sit at the top of group H having been the only team in the group to win on the opening match day, with Bate Borisov drawing against Red Star Belgrade.
After another quick turnaround after our 2-0 win over West Brom on Monday, we can probably expect to see some more rotation tonight, what makes the chance of that happening even higher is the amount of young players that have been brought on the trip. With Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Josh Dasilva, Charlie Gilmour, Vlad Dragomir and Marcus McGuane also travelling for the fixture.
On the youthful presence of the squad, club captain, Per Mertesacker, who will be taking control of the Academy next season said:
“We see a lot of young players, they have a good future here, that’s my opinion, but you need to develop them in a lot of areas.
“To train with us, to travel with us, it’s the big time for such a young group. But now it’s up to them to resist those pressure situations.”
However, with this being only the second game of the group stages where points are needed I wouldn’t expect us to name an 11 filled with debutants as BATE, who have only lost five times this calendar year, won’t want to make it easy for Arsenal on their visit.
On the mix of youth and experience, Arsene Wenger said:
“We have a very tight schedule and it is an important game, and that’s why there is only one or two young players who will start the game.”
Seeing that BATE have won their league for the past 11 seasons it’s probably wise not to fling every youngster in from the start, and with that in mind, Wenger highlighted a few things we could expect from the Belarussian’s performance tonight, saying:
“We know BATE’S strength, they are a teak with good quality, technically strong, so we will need a good performance to have a chance.”
One former BATE player we’ll be quite familiar with though is Aliaksandr Hleb. Having four separate spells at the club, Hleb isn’t currently there after joining Krylia Sovetov Samara this year at the age of 36, however, Arsene Wenger had a few words on our former number 13:
“He was a great, great player but he played on the side as Lionel Messi. That is nearly an impossible task for every player in the world.
“He’s coming to visit us. (I will ask him) is he happy and what is he doing?”
Hopefully our former playmaker is doing well nowadays but the one thing everyone is hoping for tonight is another three points in our Europa League journey.