Good day one and all.
Arsenal are in Portugal to play Vitória de Guimarães at the Estádio D Afonso Henriques in a Europa League group F match.
Thanks to two last-gasp second-half free-kicks from substitute Nicolas Pépé against Guimarães two-weeks ago, a win here will leave the Gunners well placed to progress through to the ‘Round of 32’ in this competition, with two games to spare. However, due a doleful run of domestic form that has seen Unai Emery’s stock decreased drastically in recent weeks, victory is unlikely to gain him any favor; defeat, and the calls for him to leave the dugout will grow just louder. Not a great position the Spaniard finds himself in.
For all our domestic failings the Gunners are doing well in Europa though, winning three from three to top the group. Whereas Guimarães are still winless and rooted at the bottom despite that encouraging performance in the reverse fixture at the Emirates.
They’re aren’t doing too badly in the Primeira Liga, currently sits 5th on the log and have lost just one of their last seven league games (W4, D2). And if this season has taught Arsenal anything… it is that there are no gimmes.
With Granit Xhaka now stripped of the Arsenal captaincy, for me this almost feels like a parting shot from Emery. Because if we are honest this is something that will result in him losing whatever smidgen of respect he still got left in the dressing room.
The next international break just turned into something most fans are looking forward to as I suspect it will be a very very, let’s just say, interesting two-weeks for our beleaguered head coach too.
No Mesut Özil in the travelling party, which could only mean he is “rested” ahead of the Leicester game, wallahi, after his two starts this past week. In addition, Emery are likely to make sweeping changes, bringing in his ‘cup team’ that will feature the usual suspects.
Hopefully Pépé, who was an unused sub vs both Liverpool and Wolves, get a run. To be honest I find his situation bizarre; the guy is our record signing and instead of continuing his integration as he had no pre-season… Is Bukayo Saka ahead of him in Emery’s pecking order now?
With Guimarães all but certain to not make it out of the group they are likely to field a weakened side as priorities shift elsewhere, making Arsenal favourites to win.
However, things are never that simple for the Gunners and it would still be expected of us to be better organised than recently, because this Portuguese side will be in a positive frame of mind playing on their own patch. COYG