Arsenal are back on the European stage as they open their Europa League group with a trip to FC Zurich.
Dropping down to Europe’s second-tier competition was certainly not in the plan for FC Zurich, with their manager Franco Zoda unable to guide the team to the premier tournament. The Swiss side lost their qualification round to Azerbaijan side Qarabag with an aggregate score of 5-4.
Zurich had to work hard after the defeat and beat the likes of Linfield and Hearts en route to qualifying for the Europa League group stages. This will be the fifth time in 11 years the side will be playing in this competition, hoping to see some progress into the latter stages.
Having been eliminated in the group stages during their previous endeavours in the competition, they broke the jinx to reach the last 32 in the 2018-19 season. Zoda will be hoping to go much ahead than that and will be aiming to start brightly against a formidable opponent in Arsenal.
After a terrific start to the season, Mikel Arteta tasted defeat after winning the first five games of the season. A trip to Old Trafford has always been a tricky affair for Arsenal, and amid VAR controversy and the Gunners being the better side, they could not achieve victory.
Arteta will be hoping that loss was a minor blip and will aim to get his team back on track ahead of their return to Europe. The Gunners have been absent from continental duties but will relish a trip away from England for competitive action in a long while.
Arteta will aim to finish as group winners and look for an instant reaction from his side. On paper, Zurich might be an easy opponent, but in the past, particularly in the Europa League, the Gunners have faced problems in such fixtures.
Team News & Tactics
Zoda has a strong squad ahead of the Arsenal clash, with only two injuries reported at the time of writing. Central defender Ilan Sauter is missing from action, while striker Bohdan Viunnyk is also injured.
In that scenario, Aiyegun Tosin could provide Zurich’s attacking threat while Fabian Rohner supported the attacking-third action. Meanwhile, Karol Mets, who was taken off at halftime during Zurich’s last game, might come back in the defence.
Zoda will rely on his system with a back three and a midfield-five. Antonio Maschesano and Ole Selnaes will lineup in midfield on either side of Blerim Dzemaili. Adrian Guerrero and Nikola Boranijasevic will play as wing-backs.
Tosin and Donis Avdijaj are the preferred choices to lead the attacking line, as they will be hoping to shake up the Arsenal defence, which has had a formidable record this term.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2) – Brecher; Kryeziu, Omeragic, Mets; Boranijasevic, Selnaes, Dzemaili, Marchesano, Guerrero; Tosin, Avdijaj
Arteta is expected to make plenty of changes to his lineup for the midweek European clash. The manager will take the opportunity to use many of his fringe stars after starting most games with familiar names. Arsenal have taken on young stars such as Matt Smith and Marquinhos on their side, although only one of them might see their name on the starting side.
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Arteta’s primary focus is to contain the midfield position, where he currently is short of personnel. Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny are injured, with the latter expected to miss several months with a hamstring problem. The Ghanaian is on the road to recovery but shall not make it for the Zurich clash.
Sambi Lokonga and Granit Xhaka are fit, but Arteta is likely to start with the Belgian and rest the Swiss star. Meanwhile, Cedric was reportedly injured in training, which doubts his involvement. Takehiro Tomiyasu will start at right-back, with Matt Turner in goal in place of Aaron Ramsdale.
Rob Holding is set for his first start this season at centre-back alongside Gabriel Magalhaes. Kieran Tierney will replace Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back.
Fabio Vieira could be handed in a first start in midfield, alongside Martin Odegaard and Lokonga. Eddie Nketiah is surely the replacement for Gabriel Jesus in front, with Bukayo Saka likely to start on the right. Emile Smith-Rowe is a doubt after suffering an injury after the Manchester United clash. There could also be a start for summer arrival Marquinhos in place of Gabriel Martinelli.
Probable lineup (4-3-3) – Turner; Tomiyasu, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Odegaard, Lokonga, Vieira; Saka, Nketiah, Marquinhos
- FC Zurich have won their last 4 games in the Europa League, including qualifiers.
- FC Zurich have featured 5 times in the last 11 editions of the Europa league.
- Arsenal have won 5 of their last 6 games this season.
- This will be the first competitive game between Arsenal and FC Zurich.
- Arsenal have won 6 out of 6 against Swiss sides in European competitions.
Player to Watch
It’s been somewhat puzzling only to see Fabio Vieira feature for the first time in the closing stages of Manchester United defeat. The Portuguese midfielder was signed for more than 30 million in the summer, and many Arsenal fans have been eager to see him play.
In the cameo against Manchester United, the midfielder showed promising signs of what would come from the Portuguese. He will be the one to watch when Arsenal open their account in Europe and face Zurich.
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FC Zurich 0-3 Arsenal
The Gunners enter the competition after a year’s absence with much optimism and renewed firepower. They might not field the formidable Jesus to lead the line, but Nketiah is no pushover, as the striker will be keen on opening his account this season.
Moreover, the Gunners are likely to have regular starters such as Saka and Odegaard, added to the threat of Vieira on their side. From how the squad quality looks, the Gunners will likely come out as comfortable winners and open their account this season with a win.