ARSENAL continue their Europa League campaign with a home tie against Belgian outfit Standard Liege on Thursday night. Chris Bland (@blandc_1996)delivers his analysis.
Arsenal v Standard Liege | Thursday 3rd October 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport
Arsenal host Belgian side Standard Liege in the second round of Europa League group-stage as they look to make it two wins from two.
Unai Emery has used the competitions to blood a number of his younger talents, as well as give opportunities to fringe players, and this will be the case once again on Thursday in a busy period for the Gunners.
Emilano Martinez will start in goal after his heroics kept Frankfurt at bay in a 3-0 win in Germany, whilst the likes of Mesut Ozil, Dani Ceballos and Shkodran Mustafi could be given an opportunity to stake a claim for first-team starts. Defenders Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding are expected to continue their return from injury, in what will be a heavily rotated side from Monday’s draw with Manchester United.
Standard Liege currently sit second in the Belgian Pro League after nine games, with a record that reads W6-D1-L2. Looking to make it two from two in the Europa League after their 2-0 victory over Vitoria Guimaraes in the opening game, they come into the game on the back of a hard fought 1-1 draw with Charleroi, where a stoppage-time free-kick earnt them a point.
End-to-end encounter expected
Goals haven’t been hard to come by for either side this season, and I expect the trend to continue once again at the Emirates on Thursday night.
Arsenal began their campaign with a 3-0 win in Frankfurt, but rode their luck for large parts, before killing off the contest in impressive style on the break, all be it once Frankfurt were reduced to 10 men.
It was an end-to-end game in Germany and the Expected Goals (xG) count highlighted the Gunners’ defensive troubles, with Eintracht ending the game with an xG of 2.01. Three of the expected back 4 are returning from long-term injuries, whilst Mustafi has been less than convincing when he’s played, so Liege will fancy their chances going forward.
Standard have been scoring plenty themselves, and possess the attacking talent up front to worry Arsenal’s defence. They are unbeaten in their last five competitive fixtures, and have scored 21 goals in league games this season.
Winger Pual-Jose M’Poku is a bright spark going forward, and looks to run at defenders at any given opportunity. After picking up the Man of the Match award on Sunday, and curling in the free-kick to earn his side a point against Charleroi, he will be full of confidence and relishing the prospect of coming up against Mustafi and co.
Maxime Lestienne is top scorer for the Belgian side with five goals, and was linked with a move to the Premier League in the summer, so he will be certainly one to keep an eye on.
Goals shouldn’t be an issue for the young Arsenal side, and they created plenty of opportunities against Frankfurt, using the counter-attack effectively and racking up an xG of 3.46. It is worth noting that two goals came after Frankfurt went down to 10, opening the game up further, but they weren’t without opportunities before.
The 5-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest also adds to the appeal of goals in the game, and with Ozil and Ceballos expected to feature, the attacking threat of Arsenal should be too much for the Belgians.
The betting angle
Standard Liege look capable of scoring against a back four which is still working its way back to full fitness, whilst Arsenal’s midfield will be geared to attack, offering them less defensive protection as a result.
Going forward, as alluded to previously, Arsenal’s attacking talent should be enough against a defence that has only kept three clean sheets in the league, and as a result Arsenal to win and Both Teams To Score looks good value at 15/8 (BetVictor).
Tapping into the goalscoring markets, young Argentine striker Gabriel Martinelli stands out at 15/8 (PaddyPower) to score anytime. With two already to his name this season in the EFL Cup victory against Forest, he has looked a bright spark when given the opportunity, and should lead the line on Thursday.
Martinelli linked up well with Nelson and Smith-Rowe in the cup, and the front line should be well fancied to break down the Belgian side on the night, especially with experienced Ozil in-line to start. Ceballos could also feature, and with that attacking talent on display, chances should be plentiful.
Arsenal v Standard Liege – Arsenal to win and Both Teams To Score (15/8 BetVictor)
Arsenal v Standard Liege -Gabriel Martinelli to score at anytime (15/8 Paddy Power)