Over the last few weeks we’ve become very familiar with the weekend/midweek schedule and this week is no different as we face Red Star Belgrade tonight before our attention switches to Manchester City on the weekend.
Tonight’s game is probably our most important in the competition so far this season as a win would see us qualify for the next stage of the competition. We’re currently top of Group H with nine points while Belgrade and BATE are on four each so a win here would make it impossible for our top spot to be taken.
One thing that stands out about how we’ve gone about winning our first three games in the competition, is the mix of youth and experience in the matchday squads. Rob Holding spoke about this yesterday, saying:
“You can see in the teams that play in the cups and Europa League the likes of Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock have come in and hit the ground running and with three wins out of three, they can push on to the next level.”
Over our first three games, it’s been encouraging to see our youngsters stand up to their tests as each of them as left a mark on the games in one way or another, usually standing out as one of the best players on the pitch.
With such quality available to us it’ll be hard to predict anything other than an Arsenal win, however, our recent run (including the reverse fixture at Red Star) would suggest this game could be tougher than we expect.
Although we’ve won our last four games, three of those games have seen us concede first and then go on to win. With this in mind its imperative that we start at a high intensity as we did away at Everton, or what seemed to be an easy win could turn into a European upset.
Another thing that could give our visitors is the fact that we only beat them 1-0 at their place, thanks to a beautiful Olivier Giroud goal late on. After such a tight encounter weeks ago, they might believe that with their fans making a Cologne-esque atmosphere at The Emirates, they could be in with a chance.
Hopefully, that won’t be the case tonight as the boys should know that they have one job to do and one job only, which is qualify.
Other than hoping for the win though, it’d be nice to see a more dominant performance than we’ve seen in the last couple of games and possibly build a platform to set the youngsters free in the last two group games.