When the least is the most: why Arsenal’s ‘dead rubber’ Europa matches may be the most important of the year


When the least is the most 


It would be beautiful if one time in my life Arsenal would have a period where they had a bottomless pit of cash. That they would have a couple of transfer windows where they bought everyone they needed.

Just once.

It’s not going to happen, I know. That’s ok. I don’t expect it and part of me would feel dirty if we had a bottomless pit.

Throw in the current world problems and it’s even more unlikely that Arsenal can upgrade in all areas needed.

What Arsenal do have is a steady flow of big Academy talent.

What we also have is our new manager’s first tough period. The chances that he is likely to give to these talented players will likely be limited. With the January transfer window looming some of these younger players could not only use these next two EL games to impress but they could change our plans and change our future.

Arsenal desperately needs creativity and goals. Without being greedy we need more than one. One is not going to help if he can’t play. We see this with our one athletic midfielder and what happened when he couldn’t play.

I’m sure we will get one but what if Smith-Rowe showed that he could be the second.

What if Pepe could do what he did yesterday twice more, and gain the consistency and trust that he lacks?Willian is a problem so what if Nelson used this time to solidify a run of games to prove that we don’t need a new winger?

The goals are needed from the attack and the midfield both. With two assists, Willock continues to show that regardless of general performance he can create or score. Balogun is pushing. Potentially he is everything that Lacazette isn’t.

Early qualification could be more than the inevitable we expected. It could end up being a gift.

If they were thinking that whatever budget is available had to be split between at least 1 creator and a striker then maybe these remaining games will convince Arteta that we have 2 of the 3 players he’s looking for already at the club. This could theoretically give us the opportunity to buy our number one creative target rather than have to settle for a cheaper one as we’d need 2 or 3 purchases.

Sometimes a small gift drops in your lap. These 2 EL games could kickstart or restart the careers of a few and change the picture for Arsenal.

Many will write these games off. Some won’t watch. Others will say it’s just Rapid Wien and Dundalk.

What may actually happen is the least of our games could retrospectively end up being some of the most pivotal for the short term future.

Oh, and if you haven’t watched Miguel Azeez, his ceiling is higher than all but one of our first team midfielders.



  • I’ve had a feeling for a while that Reiss Nelson will either be ‘not quite Nelson’ or a big star. So often I watch him and ‘not quite’ ends up describing much of what he attempts. I feel that if he is given a true run of games then that confidence would change it all. I also feel that as quality is not his issue that if he bent one into the top corner in a PL game then that could be the catalyst, the true beginning of his Arsenal career. Reiss Nelson is still bubbling under the surface. I hope Arteta shakes the can and pops the top.
  • I liked the return of the higher defensive line. It had gone on vacation recently.
  • Pepe’s impactful performance was a result of Arsenal using him in wiser ways. Direct balls early and giving him his first touch within shooting range, not on the wing.
  • Runarsson looks quick. Quick feet, quick to move his feet and quick to get up and distribute.
  • I’ve seen Xhaka accelerate twice this season. Worth a mention. Rare sighting.
  • For as much as an Arsenal corner is a fantastic chance to go to the loo, it’s only fair to point out that at this stage last season 46% of goals conceded were by set plays. The current % is zero.
  • My best guess as to instruction number one in how to create more was simply to be more direct. Many times, many different players accelerated forward as their first thought. This is a welcome change from safely passing backwards.



  • It’s rare that a game goes by without some really odd team selections or substitutions. I thought that Lacazette actually played as well as I think he’s capable of as a number 10, but if he is the past and ESR is the future, why did Smith-Rowe only play for 15 mins? Why risk Tierney? Did Ceballos need to play when Azeez could’ve got 20+ valuable minutes? I’ve wondered for a little while if one of Arteta’s struggles is not including senior players. He seems to play them when they are undeserving or not needed.
  • Eddie needs to shrug off disappointment. He seems to somewhat carry a backpack of frustration when he doesn’t get a pass or misses a chance. He may have learnt this from Lacazette who is the same way. My experience taught me that a quality that all strikers should master is smiling. Free your mind, Eddie.

Arsenal-Editor - Gunners Town Banner - (728x206)


  • That Reiss’ run starts on Sunday. That Willock keeps his place as the team needs the threat his game provides regardless of his passing ability.
  • I’d also love to see AMN playing more. He is beyond a squad player, he can be a difference maker. As we all see, he is barely getting more minutes than Cedric and Kolasinac and he is far superior.



I can’t say I’m looking forward to the upcoming PL games. Apprehensive is a better word. I am however greatly looking forward to the next two EL games. I just hope that this golden opportunity that rarely happens isn’t given to senior pros just to ‘give them minutes.’

, , , , , ,

One Response to When the least is the most: why Arsenal’s ‘dead rubber’ Europa matches may be the most important of the year

  1. allezkev November 27, 2020 at 4:12 pm #

    Thanks for that Mike, it’s always enjoyable reading your balanced and insightful musings, an oasis of calm in a sea of hysteria.

    One win doesn’t make us champions elect just as one defeat shouldn’t leave you making yourself a noose, it’s football, it’s up and it’s down and if you can’t take any positives from a game where we won 3-0 and played with verve and elan then that’s a bit of a worry.

    The Balogun goal had me purring, it was three players doing the exact right thing, two passes played with accuracy and weight, it looked simple but why do so many get it wrong? Tierney and Smith Rowe made it look easy leaving Balogun with one touch, one turn and a sharp shot, simple and effective.

    Reiss Nelson has all the tools, the pace, the close control, the feints, the turns, the finishing, to be our Jack Grealish, he can play wide but when he comes inside he looks deadly, maybe all he needed was the trust and confidence of the manager and then he can fly…

    I thought that Soares did ok, I’ve never really understood why so many have a downer on him, he’s not Berti Voghts but he’s also not Gus Caesar, he’s ok as cover and to me he did fine.

    Early days but Runarsson seemed confident and noticeably the defence wasn’t edgy which usually means they are happy with the guy between the sticks.

    Pleased to see that Willock is getting some positive feedback, he’s an underrated player who is a bright guy and has a lot to offer.

    Onwards and Upwards

Your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes

%d bloggers like this: