Saturday , September 18 2021

Arsenal training: 5 things we spotted as Unai Emery plans rotation vs. Sporting Lisbon

Arsenal's unbeaten run continued with a 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday, following Alexandre Lacazette's late equalizer.

That made it 14 Unai Emery's men without loss games, who will look to make it 15 the knockout rounds when they host Sporting Lisbon at the Emirates on Thursday night.

Spanish boss Emery has been rotated during recent months, as his side fight in the Premier League, Europe and the Carabao Cup, making the most of his squad.

The game's winning goal, Aaron Ramsey – despite his contract situation – started in midfield, Stephan Lichtsteiner was at right back and Granit Xhaka, amid an injury crisis, started on the left of the back four.

The depth within the Arsenal squad has been the key to their excellent run and Bernd Leno this week declared that "nobody is safe" within a squad where competition for places is now more fierce than it has been in a number of years.

Unai Emery in training on Thursday

Ahead of the clash with Sporting and the weekend match against Wolves, Emery is again expected to utilize his squad.

Here are some things to think about: the clash with the Portuguese side:

1. Smiles aplenty shows confidence is high

Just a few jokes

It seems that overlapping the simplistic but a winning training of ground is a happy training ground, and a happy ground training is one where players will be more willing to go that extra mile.

It was a cycle and when I had some fruit juice I was taken off at the start of the Spaniard's reign, there was hardly anyone at London Colan moaning about the current state of affairs.

Thanks for the opportunities available through rotation, but players also know that they will impress then they are liable to get more game time.

It's very simple and right now, amid the unbeaten run, it's proving itself very effective.

2. Minutes for Monreal? Maybe not yet …

Nacho Monreal undertakes some stretching exercises

Arsenal's Mr Consistent, Nacho Monreal, has missed the club's last five matches due to injury.

The 32-year-old was back out at London Colney on Wednesday, but it was trained on its own, going through exercises with club physios.

It seems extremely unlikely that it will be thrust into action against Sporting, given its limited involvement (let's be honest, there's no chance). Perhaps waiting for the international break to come and go, is a better play with the veterans. Left back than throwing him at the weekend too.

Another man back, also worthy of mention, is Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who has been playing the season out of position in Monreal's position.

3. Xhaka's revival

A very happy Granit Xhaka

Lucas Torreira has been impressed by the heart of the midfield for his own work, but the Uruguayan has also brought up from Xhaka.

The Swiss international was once lauded by ex-Switzerland and Bayern Munich boss Ottmar Hitzfeld as being an "absolute top player," only, Arsenal haven't seen too much during the two years since his arrival.

He has improved the season out of the season and even the job out of position at left back (OK, there was the Palace penalty, but I didn't have a bad game that day).

At 26, his best years remain ahead of him and his recent revival bodes well for the future.

4. Welbeck's role

Welbeck was scored by the winner in Lisbon

Danny Welbeck has been one of Arsenal's unsung heroes so far this term and has been influential in the Europa League so far.

He has started all three games, scoring twice, and has allowed Emery to save / rotate his French forward pair. Indeed, he has played three times as many times as he has in the league this term.

Expect him to start on Thursday night as he gets another chance to prove his worth.

5. The Ramsey situation

Ramsey continues to feature in Emery's plans

The Ramsey situation is proving quite the balancing act for Emery right now.

The Welshman's future is away from the Emirates, with the decision that he will not get a new deal at the club.

But he has shown that willingness to continue to use Ramsey, using him in every Premier League game so far – however, only as a substitute in last four games – and making him captain in Lisbon.

Ramsey is perhaps the best personifies Emery's current rotation policy. Ramsey won't be here at all times, so it is gradually being phased out, but at the same time, not using a player with high quality will be a case of cutting your nose.

Thankfully there remains respect between player and manager, which, right now, is helping the club's pursuit of the trophies and a top four return.

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