Arsenal make a 5000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan to face Qarabag in the Europa League as Emery looks to continue his side’s winning run.
Arsenal supporters are not exactly a happy bunch seeing their team play in Europe’s second-tier tournament when they have been so used to seeing their side compete in the Champions League. However, they have no other choice left and support their team in their quest to getting back into the Champions League next season, by winning the Europa League.
In their quest to do so, Arsenal have to make a 5000-mile round trip to Azerbaijan to face their next opponents, Qarabag. Much of the news around this tie has been surrounding by the absence of Armenian midfielder, Henikh Mkhitaryan as Azerbaijan, due to their political conflict with Armenia have banned any citizen of that country from entering.
Arsenal could have got their way had they applied for a special visa permit, but the Gunners and the player himself felt its too unnecessary a hassle at this point. So Arsenal will have to make do without the Armenian, although Unai Emery has taken a strong enough squad to face Qarabag.
Qarabag, on the other hand, have been in a good run of form, scoring nine goals in their last three games since their defeat to Sporting Lisbon during match-day one. Qarabag at one point were considered as minnows, but previous season’s performance against Atletico Madrid in their group where the side recorded two draws, they made a strong statement.
Qarabag have been a regular in European competitions since 2009, although they are yet to see the light of knockout rounds, something they hope to obtain this season. Although standing in their way are Arsenal and Sporting Lisbon. As for now, Qarabag hope to get a result against the Gunners to get their campaign in the Europa League up and running.
Team News & Tactics
Qarabag Manager Gurban Gurbanov does not have much of injury concerns with his side and is expected to name a potent lineup that has ensured three wins in their last three games. Since their first group stage match defeat to Sporting Lisbon, their in-form star has been Innocent Emeghara, who has scored three goals in his last two games.
Apart from that for Gurbanov’s team has another critical player in former Birmingham City midfielder, Michel. Although, the manager is hoping for a collective effort to contain Arsenal. The only injury concern for Qarabag remains with Dani Quintana, who is out until December owing to ligament damage.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1) – Vagner; Medvedev, Huseynov, Rzezniczak, Gurrier; Qarayev, Diniyev; Madatov, Ozobic, Zoubir; Emeghara
We already spoke about Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s absence due to the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, Arsenal have enough quality to replace the Armenian, who got two assists to his name in on matchday one against Vorskla. In the matter of who replaces him, it can be safely assumed that Mesut Ozil will be tasked with the job.
Petr Cech’s hamstring injury that will keep him out for the next four weeks. This means Bernd Leno has a strong chance of making the goalkeeping place his own starting with Qarabag. Sead Kolasinac is also back in the squad, and Emery could give him his first start of the season. The Bosnian’s involvement could provide Nacho Monreal with a well-deserved rest, having played all but one of Arsenal’s games so far in all competitions.
There could also be starts for Stephan Lichtstenier, Matteo Guendouzi, Mohamed Elneny, Danny Welbeck and recent in-form star Alex Iwobi. Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, however, have been left out of the squad.
Probable Starting Lineup – (4-2-3-1) – Leno; Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Holding, Kolasinac; Guendouzi, Elneny; Welbeck, Ozil, Iwobi; Lacazette
- Qarabag have never faced Arsenal before, although they have had encounters with four other English sides before, losing all four with a 14-1 aggregate scoreline.
- Qarabag have also lost each of their last three games in the Europa League, their worst run in the competition.
- Arsenal have lost only one of their last 15 group stage games in European competition.
- Since the start of last season, 17 different players have scored for Arsenal in the Europa League.
- Arsenal won four away matches in the Europa League in 2017-18, their joint-most in a single European campaign along with their 2005-06 season in the Champions League.
Player to Watch
Welbeck was last matchday’s hero for Arsenal, scoring against Vorskla. Additionally, the forward, who is not the first choice under Emery at Arsenal, will have another chance to prove his worth to the Arsenal manager. He already has four goals this season in all competitions and is the joint highest scorer with Lacazette.
All Welbeck needs is a fantastic performance, preferably with his name among the scorers for Arsenal as well as a visible game understanding with fellow teammates to give Emery another attacking option regularly as well as a selection headache.
Qarabag 1 – 3 Arsenal
Arsenal are clear favourites to win this tie. There is a strangeness with the location of the game for Arsenal, but Emery has made it clear with what he wants his side to achieve by selecting a strong squad for this tie. That said, Emery is not ready to play youngsters yet for the European competition and will expect his team to collect all three points against Qarabag.
Expect Arsenal to score plenty of goals in Qarabag, as well as display good attacking play, even with their second squad. However, the defence still seems suspect and its likely that Qarabag can get one past the Gunners.