Having already secured top spot in their group, Arsenal welcome Qarabag for their final Europa League group stage game to the Emirates on Thursday.
Arsenal will again line up with young players from the academy as well as some of the fringe stars that have seen less playing time this season, when they take the field against Qarabag on Thursday. The side will look much similar to the starting lineup that took the field against Vorskla during Matchday five.
Inai Emery is also keen on giving many of his key stars a breather, keeping in mind the grueling list of fixtures in the festive period wherein Arsenal play four times in ten days.
The win over Huddersfield in the Premier League last weekend did have an impact on the side after Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis, Arsenal’s two primary center backs, received yellow cards and a subsequent one-game suspension. Thus, Arsenal are now paper thin in the central defence department; however, the timely return of captain Laurent Koscielny will be treated as good news.
The Frenchman hasn’t played a game since rupturing his achilles back in April, and Emery will want to give him some minutes, confirming the same during his pre-match press conference, Emery said, “We are going to decide after tomorrow’s match, as its the first match with us that Laurent Koscielny will play. We are going to look also if he can play 90 minutes or fewer minutes in this game.”
Luckily for Arsenal, Nacho Monreal has also made a timely recovery and could be used alongside Koscielny against Southampton. However, for the Qarabag game, Arsenal’s other center-backs are available, meaning one of Mustafi and Sokratis will play alongside Koscielny.
Petr Cech will come in place of Bernd Leno as the veteran goalkeeper is now restricted to Europa League and cup games. Carl Jenkinson will take his customary position at right-back, replacing Hector Bellerin. It’s entirely unknown if Stephan Lichtsteiner will play from the start, although it’s understood that Ainsley Maitland-Niles will be line up as the left-back.
In midfield, Mohamed Elneny, who is yet to rack up a single minute of Premier League action, will take up one of the central midfield roles alongside Matteo Guendouzi, as the likes of Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka will be needed for Premier League games.
The trio of Joe Willock, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah will get another chance to play for the first-team after impressing against Vorskla. Nketiah will be Arsenal’s central marksman, while Smith Rowe is expected to play on the right with Willock in the No. 10 role. Alex Iwobi will likely play from the right and provide the creative support and leadership in the attack.