Unai Emery has taken a strong Arsenal squad to complete a 5000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan to take on Qarabag with Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang and Ramsey missing out.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery is clear with his intentions in the Europa League, as he had stated before match day one that he would like to win the competition. That message has been reflected with his strong 18-man travelling squad to make a 5000-mile round trip and then return to play an early kickoff on Sunday.
However, one player who has been in the centre of news ahead of Arsenal clash with Qarabag is Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenia captain will be missing this clash as Azerbaijan has a ban on Armenian citizens due to their political conflict. Alternatively, Arsenal could be sorted it by applying for a special Visa permit, although the club and player have decided against it.
Mkhitaryan did play a crucial role in Arsenal’s first group stage game, laying two assists for the goals. However, in his absence, Emery will likely play Mesut Ozil in the No.10 role. In other news, Sead Kolasinac has also returned from his injury suffered before the start of the season and Emery might give him a place in the starting lineup to get him to speed with other players.
However, along with Mkhitaryan, other stars did not travel. The likes of Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are absent as well. Emery had a word on their absence and stated the reasons during the pre-game presser. He said, “Aubameyang was sick, and he cannot travel to play tomorrow. Aaron Ramsey asked me if he can stay in London because his wife is pregnant and they are waiting on the doctors.”
Petr Cech will be sidelined for the next four weeks after pulling his hamstring during Arsenal’s win over Watford. That means an extended run for Bernd Leno is expected, and he is the more likely starter over Emiliano Martinez as Arsenal’s goalkeeper against Qarabag. Supporting him in defence would be Lichesteiner, Sokratis, Holding and the returning Sead Kolasinac.
Kolasinac’s presence would provide Nacho Monreal a much-needed break from playing after he featured in all games barring one in all competitions for Arsenal.
In midfield, Emery will again field Matteo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elney as his preferred pair, with Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka set for bench roles. Mesut Ozil is set to start as Arsenal’s No.10 in the absence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Danny Welbeck who has been in a good run of goalscoring form will take up his place on the right side of attack rather than the central striking role.
Aubameyang’s absence will mean Alex Iwobi could take up a role on the left side of Arsenal’s attack as he, Welbeck and Ozil will look to support Alexandre Lacazette, who is likely to play as Arsenal’s central striker.