3 Arsenal stars who could emerge from Europa League as Mikel Arteta faces selection dilemma
The Gunners have a testing period of fixtures ahead of them before the World Cup but will be keen to show they can challenge on numerous fronts
Marquinhos in training
Arsenal have the chance to rotate their squad in the Europa League this season.
Arsenal’s Europa League campaign kicks off on Thursday and there will be no more restbite for Mikel Arteta’s side as a gruelling pre-World Cup schedule shifts into focus. The Gunners will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Manchester United at the weekend, but their trip to Switzerland will offer fringe players a chance to impress against FC Zurich.
The second tier of European competition can be seen as a hinderance, but for Arsenal to get the best out of their squad, then the Europa League will need to become as much of a focus as any other trophy this season. Although the scheduling results in consistent Thursday-Sunday matchdays, often criticised and frowned upon by managers who wish to compete heavily in the league, it does provide stability.
Arsenal would much prefer to be in the Champions League but must now try to make the most of a big chance for European silverware. Winning the trophy would qualify them for Europe’s premier club competition, and that could still be extremely important with such a competitive pack of teams chasing the top four spots in the Premier League.
This can all make things seem like a distraction but there is solace to take from Arsenal’s participation. Not only does it give an external route back into the Champions League, it is another chance for silverware and perhaps more importantly, an opportunity to rest and rotate for Arteta.
With the intense schedule that is coming up, with no free club midweek before the World Cup, Arteta will need to ensure that his squad is effectively used in order to maintain high fitness and performance levels. Although this can become tough with such high demands on Arsenal this season, it does give opportunities to players that aren’t able to get the consistent game time they want in the league.
Outside of useful squad players such as Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli – who have both impressed for Arteta early in the season – there are a group of additions to the Europa League squad that Arteta will be relying upon.
Here, football.london takes a look at the three players that will be hoping for a chance to impress with upcoming matches against FK Bodø, PSV and Zurich.
Coming in at the top of the list is one of the most exciting players that Arsenal have in their squad at the moment.
The 19-year-old Brazilian is yet to play for his new club yet after coming in for just £3m this summer from Sao Paulo. Although he did make the bench in each of the last three matches, there is a chance that he could move into the reckoning for a rotated Arsenal attack.
This is doubly so, as Nicholas Pepe has moved on loan to Nice this summer and a new winger wasn’t brought into the club, there is an opening in the squad, even if it is as a substitute.
In his three matches for the U21 side Marquinhos has scored three and assisted once too, showing his quality at youth level. Emile Smith Rowe’s recovery from injury as well as the intense style of play is also another factor that might mean more forward rotation is on offer.
Another player hoping to take advantage of shortages in the squad where transfer options weren’t available is Fabio Vieira. The 22-year-old has recovered from an injury that delayed his pre-season preparations and now the Portuguese midfielder is back in contention.
He came off the bench against Manchester United to make his first appearance for the club and could benefit from the additional minutes available to him in Europe.
Having come from Porto this summer, Vieira will be hoping to make his mark as a rotation option for Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka, whilst also fighting against Albert Sambi Lokonga and Oleksandr Zinchenko for that position.
Considering the good start to the campaign for the side there is additional need to impress when given the chance and Thursday night football could be his way to do just that.
Perhaps one of the surprise names on the squad sheet was 21-year-old Matt Smith. The midfielder is yet to make a first team appearance and has only been on the bench seven times in his career for the Gunners.
He spent last season out on loan at League One Doncaster, where he assisted two goals in his impressive 43 matches during the league season. It is still a big step forward to be included in the Europa League squad, especially considering he has only been included as a substitute in one of the first six matches this season.
With Vieira also coming back to fitness it makes a consistent stream of minutes even more unlikely this season but he will, like Marquinhos, be hoping that squad rotation will allow him the chance to impress for the club who has has been with since he was a young boy.
As a player capable of being used as a defensive midfielder it opens it up to Smith being used in Arteta’s current system and making a mark for the season ahead.