Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger will be weighing up his options ahead of their Europa League clash versus BATE Borisov this Thursday, with just a two-day-gap between the game at home to West Bromwich Albion and an eventual date in Belarus.
With the Premier League sanctioning just one fixture last Sunday, Brighton & Hove Albion against Newcastle United, Arsenal’s home game against the Baggies was the encounter selected to be aired on Monday night.
Leaving just one full day of training to go with their travels, Wenger could well be looking at shuffling the pack even more than he did in the Gunners’ opening game of the group stage versus FC Köln, in which they won 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
With Arsenal’s next weekend fixture coming as early as Sunday afternoon, where they’ll also host Brighton, here are some players who could be involved come Thursday evening:
After a positive pre-season campaign, a run in the Europa League was on the forefront of everyone’s mind when it came to Reiss Nelson’s transition into the first team.
Nelson has so far been able to take his good form into the new season with the club’s Under-23s, scoring five goals in four appearances before claiming the PL2 Player of the Month award for August.
A further goal for his account followed against Manchester United’s Under-23s and so too has two more appearances for the first team, adding to his feature versus Chelsea in the Community Shield, as Nelson took to the field against both Doncaster and FC Köln.
The 17-year-old’s fan club now extends itself to the likes of club legend Thierry Henry, who headlines the opinion that he’d like to see the Arsenal starlet play further up the field, but should Nelson be chosen to start against BATE Borisov, as he was in the Carabao Cup, he is likely to appear at right-wing-back once more.
With the midfielder’s brother, Chris Willock, opting to leave Arsenal on a free transfer in search of first-team football, Wenger might well have to tread carefully if he isn’t to suffer the same fate with the talented midfielder.
Another to impress during the North Londoners’ Asia Tour this summer, Joe Willock has so far picked up just one substitute appearance for the first team, despite being one of the bigger names currently coming out of the Under-23s.
Thursday night might well be the time to leave a greater impression, however, with the involvement of Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey and Mohamed Elneny versus West Brom leaving Jack Wilshere as the only centre midfielder to have been fully rested prior to Arsenal’s trip to the Borisov Arena.
Willock, along with a whole host of other names, was also rested for the Under-23s, which could be quite indicative.
Following the injury to Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi, there may well be space for another forward in the dugout out in Barysaw.
Eddie Nketiah has so far racked up three goals in five appearances for the Under-23s this season and, despite failing register any minutes for the first team so far this season, the forward did leave a good impression during pre-season, even when out of position.
An England international at Under-19 level, Nketiah, who was also rested by the Under-23s last weekend, might stand as an option in attack, albeit from the bench, most likely.
With Nacho Monreal filling in at centre back and Kieran Gibbs making his long-awaited move to West Brom in the summer, the left-back position has been one that’s become increasingly problematic for Wenger to rotate.
New boy Sead Kolašinac had to be fetched from the bench at half-time in the last Europa League game that the French boss tried to circumvent the core restrictions of his formation, as Ainsley Maitland-Niles failed to hold an impact in the game from the left flank.
The ex-Schalke 04 man was involved versus the Baggies on Monday night, however, and may be initially rested yet again. Maitland-Niles could well be in line for another crack at wing-back, as could Josh Dasilva, who received his first-team debut as early as last Wednesday against Doncaster.
Predominantly deployed through the middle, 18-year-old Dasilva can also play at left-back and will undoubtedly be in Wenger’s thoughts, as he joins the first team out in Belarus.
By Patrick Ribeiro