Arsenal’s U-23 captain Folarin Balogun is poised to make his starting debut for the club as they lock horns with Dundalk on Thursday.
Arsenal are hoping to finish their Europa League group stage campaign with a hundred percent winning record when they face Dundalk at the Aviva Stadium on Thursday.
The Gunners have already secured their place in the Round of 32 so it would be an excellent opportunity for Mikel Arteta to shuffle his pack completely and provide first-team opportunities to some of the younger members of the team.
“We have a few kids here. We left a few players at home as well. There are a lot of games and we need a complete training week as well, which I think is going to benefit us. But we’re still going to have a very competitive team to play tomorrow.”, said the Arsenal manager during the pre-match press conference.
As such, the club’s U-23 captain Folarin Balogun is poised to make his first start for the Gunners, having made three substitute appearances in the Europa League this season. Given the poor form of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and other attacking players, Arteta definitely won’t mind exploring more options in the number nine role.
Balogun is most likely to be partnered by the wide attacking duo of Nicolas Pepe and Reiss Nelson in what are routine changes for the visitors in Europa League fixture. Eddie Nketiah could, however, appear as a second-half substitute or perhaps even start the game over Pepe or Balogun.
Another key player expected to get the nod in the starting eleven is Emile Smith Rowe. The 20-year-old was on the scoresheet in the 4-1 win over Rapid Wien last week and he will be hoping for a bigger impact this time around, in an attempt to gain a more prominent role in the first-team.
Smith is likely to be accompanied by Joe Willock and Mohamed Elneny in central midfield, although Miguel Azeez is also pushing for a start having made two substitute appearances this season.
Moving in defence, Arteta should recall the same backline that started against Rapid Wien except for one change with Ainsley Maitland-Niles replacing Sead Kolasinac at left-back. The Englishman operated as a central midfielder in the last game but should move to defence in order to accommodate both Elneny and Willock as well as Smith Rowe.
The central defensive pairing will be formed by Shkodran Mustafi and Pablo Mari, while Runar Alex Runarsson should replace Bernd Leno in between the sticks.
Predicted Arsenal Lineup (4-3-3): Runarsson; Cedric, Mustafi, Mari, Maitland-Niles; Elneny, Willock, Smith Rowe; Pepe, Balogun, Nelson.