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The Arsenal team Unai Emery should pick for the Europa League this season

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Unai Emery will be looking to juggle competitions again this season (Picture: Getty)

Unai Emerys reputation as a Europa League specialist took a hit last season after he lost the first of his four final appearances in the competition.

Throughout his debut campaign at Arsenal, Emery sought to juggle expectations in the Premier League and Europa League by simultaneously trying to construct a side capable of finishing in the top-four of the former and winning the latter.

Ultimately, Arsenal fell just short of achieving either of those objectives, missing out on Champions League qualification by a single point in the league and courtesy of a heavy 4-1 defeat to Chelsea in an underwhelming evening in Baku.

Considering those near misses, perhaps Emery will be more inclined to focus on one more than the other this time around. According to The Athletic, Emery largely neglected advice from his staff to rotate his squad heavily for Europa League matches.

Arsenal's Europa League fixtures

Eintracht Frankfurt (a) Thursday 19 September

Standard Liege (h) Thursday 3 October

Vitoria SC (h) Thursday 24 October

Vitoria SC (a) Wednesday 6 November

Eintracht Frankfurt (h) Thursday 28 November

Standard Liege (a) Thursday 12 December

An issue that Emery has, though, is that a number of his fringe players last season have since moved on. Emery added five players to his first-team squad over the summer, but 13 players departed, including Europa League stalwarts Mohamed Elneny, Alex Iwobi and Nacho Monreal.

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Emerys decision to allow highly-rated striker Eddie Nketiah join Leeds United on loan for the season has also been questioned, with Cohen Brammall – released this summer – saying: I feel sorry for Ed because Danny [Welbeck] was injured for a lot of the season and Ed should have been given more chances.

Sundays disappointing draw against Watford showed that Arsenal have plenty of work to do if they are to achieve their top-four ambitions this season and with rivals Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs, all undergoing varying degrees of regeneration, the league is Emerys primary objective.

That will mean the Europa League taking the back seat, but with a reduced squad and injury problems to contend with, what should Emerys Europa League side team actually look like?

Defence

Emerys defence has had a familiar look to it so far this season with Bernd Leno, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sokratis Papastathopolous starting all five Premier League games, David Luiz starting four of them and Sead Kolasinac assuming the left-back role since Monreals departure.

There hasnt been much of an opportunity to rotate the full-backs due to injuries to Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney, but with both players now in full training, Emery will soon be able to alternate between Premier League and Europa League games.

Bellerin and Tierney are the best full-backs in Arsenals squad but they will both need consistent minutes to get up to speed. It may transpire that Emery initially uses them in the more serene settings of the Europa League, before eventually switching them with Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac in the league.

Both Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin are on the comeback trail for Arsenal (Picture: Getty)

Central defence is an immediate concern following Sundays shambles at Vicarage Road. Neither Sokratis nor Luiz have particularly exuded confidence so far, the former committing a basic error leading to a goal against Watford and Luiz giving two penalties away already.

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News that Rob Holding is fit again and in contention to play against Eintracht Frankfurt, therefore, is very welcome indeed. Holding managed to forge a place in Emerys Premier League plans off the back of his performances in Europe last season and will be hoping to repeat the trick again.

Otherwise, the likes of Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi will be hoping to catch the eye, with the former having played a part in a rare clean sheet against Newcastle United on the opening day.

Deputy goalkeeper Emi Martinez will likely start in goal having been persuaded to stick around.

Midfield

Emery has stuck rigidly to a four-man defence in Arsenals opening games but he has been more flexible with his midfield and attacking units. Already, Emery has experimented with four different systems – 4-2-3-1 (twice), 4-3-3, 4-3-1-2 and a similar 4-4-2 diamond.

Of Emerys midfield options, only Matteo Guendouzi has started all five games, with Dani Ceballos, Joe Willock, Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Mesut Ozil, all drifting in and out of the side. Of those six players, Willock and the curiously under-used Torreira, appear the most likely players to feature prominently in Europe.

Depending on how Emery decides to shape his attack once Alexandre Lacazette is fit enough to link up with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe, Ozil too could see most of his action coming in the Europa League. Playing all four in the Premier League would certainly be a brazen approach and Arsenals top-earner is the least nailed-on for his place.

Reiss Nelson attempts to sprint past Watford's Ismaila Sarr
Reiss Nelson should feature prominently in Arsenals Europa League campaign (Picture: Getty)

With Lacazette and Aubameyang representing Emerys only established centre forward options, it seems likely he will use a system utilising wingers in order to give one of them a rest, such as a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1. Doing so should give opportunities to Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith Rowe.

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Nelson started Arsenals first two games of the campaign before Pepe was unleashed against Liverpool and he may find that the majority of his starts from now on will come in Europe. Smith Rowe is similarly highly-rated but has had a difficult tiRead More – Source

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