Arsenal, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang especially, need a massive boost ahead of what is going to be a testing end to the Premier League season.
The Gunners have already notched up six losses in the top-flight and if they harbour any serious hopes of finishing in the top-four than they can’t afford another. However, ahead of the clash with Dundalk it’s not all doom and gloom, not in the Europa League atleast, where the Reds are flying.
Much like Wigan Athletic from 2013, the competition provides Mikel Arteta’s team with a distraction away from a horrible league campaign. And if the story finishes anything like the Latics’ then the side can expect to be lifting their first European trophy in decades next May.
What Thursday’s encounter does provide is much-needed game time for some of Arsenal’s struggling stars.
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Players like Aubameyang, Granit Xhaka, Willian and Hector Bellerin could all do with a run-out against the Irish outfit in what should be an easy win. Overall this season, Aubameyang and Willian have struggled to exert their influence in the final third with Xhaka and Bellerin found wanting when defending. And Sunday’s match ratings didn’t paint the quartet in great light with their confidence seemingly through the floor.
You understand why Arteta has chosen to play most of the young guns/reserves in the competition thus far this season, but, that can’t continue. Those players are rarely going to feature in the league, and if the former Manchester City coach wants to build up a good run of form, rebuilding the confidence of his failing stars should be his first priority.
Dundalk provides the greatest opportunity yet for the side to get back on track after their worst start to a league season since 1981. However, lose and the consequences are unthinkable especially for a side who aren’t exactly in top form.