Did I start a conspiracy theory about the Saka injury – promoting the idea that Mikel Arteta was in cahoots with Saka about his problem in a bid to throw Pep G off the selection trail for the weekend? I did. Unfortunately, my next-level galaxy brain thinking was incorrect… but the outcome was the same. Bukayo is READY and not injured. Is there a player in the league better at taking himself off before a breakdown? I don’t think so.
The bigger story here is that Bukayo has had injury scares twice in the past two weeks. He needs a rest. I’d really love him to fake an injury when we’re 3-0 up against City this weekend so he doesn’t have to go away on another international break.
Our second jaunt in the Champions League is upon us. RC Lens at Estadio Bollaert-Delelis should be an interesting test of Arteta and the players. My suspicion is the manager is prioritizing qualification for the next round as fast as possible so he can rest in the latter games. That means we’ll likely roll with a big starting 11 this evening. The manager COULD rest a key player or two but he can’t afford a slip before the biggest game of 2023.
My hope is we can get ahead in the game nice and early, kill Lens momentum, then sub key names out late on.
If Martinelli and Thomas Partey are to play a role on Sunday, you’d imagine they have to be on the flight out there and that they have to have some minutes. No player is equipped to start against City cold. A few late laps around the track in France could be enough.
Lens is a possession-based team, it’s slow build-up from the back, and they lean on springing fullbacks into action. Their model was very successful last season, putting them within spitting distance of PSG at the end of the season (1 point difference).
It’s been harder for them this season. They lost key players. Their game has been disrupted and they started poorly. This makes them perfect for Arsenal, we love gifting a coach a boost, so we’ll have to be sharp.
The most important thing tonight is to avoid anything terrible happening before Manchester City. I don’t even mind an away day draw as long as we don’t have an injury pile-up.
City play away in Germany against a RB ‘we don’t want the ball’ Leipzig. City are obviously better, but Leipzig will want to avenge an awful result in the Champions League earlier in the season. The Germans are in fine form, City are in a crisis by their standards, it’ll be interesting to see how Pep approaches the game.
Come join us right after the game… big love x