Arsenal v BATE Borisov: Early team news
PUBLISHED: 18:17 06 December 2017 | UPDATED: 18:17 06 December 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal have been training ahead of their final Europa League Group H match against BATE Borisov on Thursday at the Emirates.
It marks the start of a busy period for Arsene Wenger’s men who also have two crucial league matches on the road at Southampton on Sunday and West Ham in a London derby at the former Olympic Stadium.
In team news Arsene Wenger said Shkodran Mustafi – who was substituted after a nightmare opening during the 3-1 defeat by Manchester United with a thigh problem – could be back for the Saints game but ‘if not Southampton it will be West Ham’.
Looking forward to the next three games Wenger insisted team selection will not change against Borisov because the group has been won, saying: “[It won’t change] too much because I have many players available who need competition. We go next week again into a week with three games. Some experienced players need competition so we will play quite an experienced team.”
The Islington Gazette was present to watch the players undertake a light training session on Wednesday morning ahead of the match. Mesut Ozil – who has been in good form in the last month – also took part in the workout at the club’s training ground at London Colney.
However it is expected Wenger will ring the changes from the team which valiantly lost to United at the Emirates on Saturday with Jack Wilshere expected to start.
Wilshere has so far played in every Europa League match but is yet to start a Premier League game for the North Londoners this term.
When asked his views on Wilshere’s family trip to an open air ice-skating rink this week Wenger replied: “It’s not ideal. For your balance it’s not bad, for a footballer it’s not great. It depends as well what you do.
“You can do ice skating by just bringing your child on and making sure nothing happens to them. Ice skating violently, I don’t think he did that.”
While Alexis Sanchez will be rested ahead of the trip to St Mary’s Stadium in the lunchtime kick-off on Sunday as Arsenal have already booked their place in the first knockout round Olivier Giroud is also set to play against the Belarusians
Giroud, who came on in the 76th minute of Arsenal’s disappointing loss to Jose Mourinho’s men scored his 100th Arsenal goal in the emphatic 4-2 victory over Alexsandr Yermakovich’s men in September.
Wenger also refused to be drawn into a war of words with bitter foe Mourinho after the Portuguese boss was duped into believing Alexandre Lacazette was not fit to play.
Speaking after training Wenger said: “I thought he wouldn’t play but in the end he could. What did you want me to do? Leave him at home?
“I’m always honest. I thought really he wouldn’t play. That’s what I was told. He had a test on Friday morning, then even when he went to the game we weren’t sure if he would play.
“But he tried and he played. That’s part of football.”
Arsenal lead Group H with 10 points from five matches and will emerge as group winners regardless of the result against Borisov .
Borisov head into the match on five points and in last place but knowing a win would take them into the knock-out rounds if Cologne’s match with Partizan Belgrade is a draw. With the Gunners still remaining in all four competitions this season, they face another eight matches before New Year’s Day.
Wenger’s side are fifth in the Premier League with 28 points from 15 games and one outside the top four.
Meanwhile Gunners and Saints fans face travel misery on Sunday as all train lines in and around Southampton will be closed due to maintenance work taking place with a replacement bus service available.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Islington Gazette. Click the link in the orange box above for details.