Arsenal have to right the wrongs of last week with a comprehensive victory over BATE Borisov tomorrow night (Thursday).
Last week’s ploughing contest in Belarus was both underwhelming and unworthy, even with the shocking state of the pitch, so the team has a lot to do to show that defeat was more down to a one-off set of circumstances rather than any lingering weakness.
There is a real sense of pragmatism about Unai Emery that suggests he would take whatever is required for Arsenal to progress, whether it’s a 10-0 win or a penalty shootout nail-biter, and there is a lot to be said for that attitude.
Sometimes, however, more than ‘just enough’ is required and a Europa League clash against a team that is still technically in the midst of a pre-season campaign requires a bloody good showing.
I expect a near full-strength XI to start proceedings given that the schedule has been pretty light for the Gunners of late: two games in two weeks is something of a luxury in this era of seven-day football. In the absence of Alexandre Lacazette through suspension, I expect Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang will lead the line, with a strong supporting cast that may even include Mesut Ozil.
The German has featured prominently in the club’s pre-match promotional photos and videos, which is typically a sign a starting berth is likely.
Should he get the nod, it will be the perfect opportunity for him to show what the Gunners were missing last week in Belarus, namely a cutting edge.
All things being equal, the Gunners shouldn’t have any real issues dispatching BATE, not if they want to be taken seriously as a top four and Europa League contender this season. The Belarusian side have form for upsets and big-match performances but they are a long way from home and this Arsenal team is a few classes above their best.
However deep the visitors sit, we really should have enough to out-manoeuvre them and, hopefully, we are able to score a goal or two early on to settle the stadium and focus our efforts on playing some good football.
Anything else doesn’t bare thinking about.
Though it will never be the Champions League, there are some interesting fixtures left for the Gunners in this competition and only victory will allow us a chance to pit ourselves against some quality opposition.
Emery is a stickler for detail and I hope he would have stressed the importance of focus on his players because, without an away goal to our name, there will be no room for complacency. Make no mistake, defeat is disaster.