Aubameyang to return v Olympiakos, but will be see Martinelli too?


Set to return

A week is a long time in football isn’t it? Last Thursday was according to many the biggest week of Arsenal’s season and make or break for the manager, Mikel Arteta.  A week later, after a 3-1 win in Olympiakos and entirely outplaying the old enemy for 80 minutes and winning the North London Derby, the mood is considerably more upbeat, ahead of the Europa League second leg.

Confident Arsenal punters might be checking out and considering backing their team to both win tonight and therefore qualify to the Quarter Finals. Indeed, Arteta has a virtually fully fit squad, with Bukayo Saka the only doubt, after coming off against Tottenham. In all probability Arteta will take this opportunity to rest the young England International, who has been the shining light of 20/21 but has played more football than most. Pepe did well in the second half on Sunday, off the right and it was his slide rule pass that set up the chance that ultimately caused the penalty to be conceded.

I suspect Arteta will want to maintain a strong team, to maintain the team’s momentum, but he may take the opportunity to use Willian or Martinelli on the left. The fact that Arteta has been speaking about the young Brazilian’s lack of game time at his press conference suggests we may see him at some point this evening, if not from the outset. The other decision will then be which of Smith Rowe or Odegaard get a rest.


Wil we see Gabi tonight?

The other big decision and the main focus of speculation of course will be around the club skipper Pierre -Emerick Aubameyang, after he was dropped for disciplinary reasons just ahead od Sunday’s clash with Spurs. Will Arteta see this as an opportunity to bring his main striker back immediately, or will he make his point further and start Lacazette. Everyone will be super interested in the team selection for that reason more than any other, but I suspect the captain will play.

There may be other rotation, but I think the fact that Arteta has not only a fully fit squad which is now showing genuine competition is a huge bonus. For example, resting Luiz and Gabriel for Holding and Mari, one could argue will not have too much impact, and many fans might even select those two all the time. What lovely dilemmas for a coach as we head into the business end of the season and he has it with Cedric and Bellerin at right back as well. Indeed, he could even play Chambers on the right and select Cedric on the left is he wished to rest Kieran Tierney.


First name on everyone’s team sheet

On the latter, barring Leno, who could also be rested for Ryan, Tierney I would argue is the first player on not only the manager’s team sheet, but that of every supporter as well. He is fit again and back to his imperious best, so I personally hope he is not rested and starts tonight and stays on until the game is put to bed. Then, of course, we can rest him with Sunday’s match at West Ham in mind. West Ham is a tough challenge but if we win at the London stadium, we have a nice rest to recuperate for the visit of the ailing champions on the 4th of April.


Possible starting 11 for tonight 


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