Greece is the location this time for Arsenal’s final group game in the Champions League. However this time it’s the young guns turn to take centerstage. Arsene Wenger takes his youngest side ever to an away European tie in what is the dead rubber for us as we have already confirmed our participation in the knockout stage of the premier European competition.
With Senderos not seen anywhere, not on the list of players to Manchester last week and also not on the plane to Greece, Silvestre will be leading the team out this time around. Fabianski, Walcott, Song and Vela will provide the first team experience while the rest is made up of majority of the Youth Cup winning side last season. With that in mind, I suspect the line-up will resemble something like this;
Again, not the tallest of line-ups, however there’s still the height of reserves team captain, Kyle Bartley thrown in there. If either him or Luke Ayling gets a chance to strut their stuff on the pitch tonight, it would be a baptism of fire for them. This will be nothing like a reserves team game and good players will always gain valuable experience from matches like this and hopefully grow from there. Both have appeared throughout the Youth Cup campaign last season and formed the bedrock in which the title was won. Both also possesses the necessary height to succeed at the highest level. I just hope the rest of the game matches that.
Craig Eastmond have done well in recent memory but will find his chances limited in tonight’s game as Alex Song is in the travelling party. That is of course, if Song is put in midfield. Aaron Ramsey scored the last time we played Stoke and will most likely start in midfield. The Welshman is still prone to making the easiest of errors and needs to iron out the need to make the spectacular pass to perform consistently for Arsenal. If not, he will find a very tough competitor in Fran Merida right behind him in the pecking order.
Theo Walcott returns in what is effectively his second comeback in as many months. He has 6 months to keep fit and show his worth to Fabio Capello in order to make the flight to Africa in the summer. With Aaron Lennon playing as well as he ever has, Walcott now not only have to find his fitness but also show more maturity in his game. Blessed with amazing pace, he still have not achieve the level of maturity needed when making the decision on the final pass or the shot at goal. They say this comes with time but I’m not sure that is the case with Walcott.
This is not a game which we must win, therefore the team will play minus the added pressure. The same system of play have been employed throughout the age squads at Arsenal, as such everyone will fit in seamlessly, regardless of who starts. Experience and learning curve is the utmost importance tonight. For once, the score matters second.
Come on you young guns.