Arsenal have veered from promising to disastrous so far this season, with the excitement built up by the club’s late spending in the summer transfer window tempered somewhat by a host of defensive errors and a lack of balance. Throwing away a two-goal lead against Watford at the weekend is just the latest in a line of poor performances.
Unai Emery’s side are now without a win in three competitive outings following draws with Watford and Tottenham, as well as a 3-1 defeat at the hands of current Premier League leaders Liverpool. Getting going in the Europa League is vital, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and company try to get back into the Champions League by any means necessary.
Eintracht Frankfurt were one of the surprise packages of the last edition of the competition, as the dangerous trio of Luka Jovic, Ante Rebic and Sebastian Haller combined to deadly effect in the final third. All three have moved on in the summer, leaving behind a talented but slightly less frightening opponent. If the Gunners continue to defend as they have over the last month, however, goals for both sides are a given.
Calum Chambers could get a start at centre back as Arsenal try to rotate (Getty Images)
Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are both edging towards being fit for Emery’s side after spells on the sidelines. The pair will be involved in training over the next week or so and could be helped back towards match fitness by turning out for the club’s under-23 side, but neither will be rushed back with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac still available. After the departure of Petr Cech as deputy goalkeeper, Bernd Leno will likely start in Europe.
Sokratis and David Luiz are not expected to maintain their shaky partnership at centre back, with both players guilty of some careless mistakes so far this season. Emery will likely want to rotate to a degree, leaving Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi as potential candidates to step into the void. Konstantinos Mavropanos is working his way back to match fitness and Rob Holding could soon be in contention too.
Probable starters: Leno; Maitland-Niles, Chambers, David Luiz, Kolasinac
Lucas Torreira could be given a rare chance to start this season (Getty Images)
Arsenal will likely try and reshuffle in midfield, too. Dani Ceballos, Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka started for the Gunners against Watford, with Ceballos capturing the imagination of the club’s fans once again despite the disappointing scoreline. The Spaniard and Guendouzi were withdrawn in the second half, which makes them more likely candidates for midweek participation.
Lucas Torreira is due more opportunities, while Emery could also hand academy product Joe Willock another chance to show what he can do in the first-team environment. Xhaka could drop to the bench to allow for a breath of fresh air in an already busy midfield. Given that Frankfurt were strong in the Europa League and at home last campaign, however, opting for further experience seems the more sensible approach.
Probable starters: Torreira, Guendouzi, Ceballos
Reiss Nelson could get more first-team minutes after impressing in flashes this season (Getty Images)
Alexandre Lacazette is set to be sidelined until October after the Frenchman played through the pain with an ankle problem rather than get immediate treatment for the issue. Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were used as a front two against Watford, with Mesut Ozil deployed in behind – but the former Germany international didn’t have the brightest of games.
Emery could opt to use Willock in behind the same striking partnership, or Reiss Nelson could be used wide in more of a conventional front three with Aubameyang deployed centrally. Nelson spent last season on loan in Germany with Hoffenheim and has prior experience of the Commerzbank-Arena. Pepe is still on the hunt for his first Arsenal goal, and is probably more comfortable when given the chance to run at opponents in one-on-one situations as a wider forward.
Probable starters: Nelson, Aubameyang, Pepe
Expected Arsenal line-up against Frankfurt (4-3-3): Leno; Maitland-Niles, Chambers, David Luiz, Kolasinac; Torreira, Guendouzi, Ceballos; Nelson, Aubameyang, Pepe