12 Sep, 15:00
Like it or not, Arsenal are due to start their Europa League season on Thursday night. Bundesliga side FC Cologne are the first team to take on the Gunners and Arsene Wenger will rotate his side ahead of a busy month for the club.
With chances in the first team few and far between for a number of the squad, the opportunity to play in Europe will be a welcome boost for a lot of players. Jack Wilshere is one who will no doubt benefit from the Europa League, while the likes of Calum Chambers and Theo Walcott will be hoping to use the games to boost their chances of playing in the league for the Gunners.
The forgotten man at the Emirates Stadium. It’s hard to believe that Debuchy is still an Arsenal player. Linked with a move to Nice and Brighton & Hove Albion in the summer, the Frenchman still remains in north London after failing to seal a move elsewhere. Given Carl Jenkinson moved to Birmingham City on loan, Debuchy’s chance in the first team could come in the Europa League. With Wenger expected to rest a number of players throughout the group stage, Debuchy more than likely will deputize for Hector Bellerin at right-back.
Had the defender not dislocated his shoulder against Stoke City in 2015, the 32-year-old could still be potentially ahead of Bellerin in the pecking order. However, he’s now in the position where he will be looking to put himself in the shop window ahead of a probable move in January.
Chambers is another player that will benefit from the opportunity to represent the Gunners in Europe. Signed from Southampton in 2014, things haven’t quite gone to plan for the 22-year-old. The defender impressed for Middlesbrough in the Premier League last season, yet he has been unable to make an appearance so far this campaign. Although Wenger has elected to start with three centre-backs, Chambers just can’t force his way into the starting XI.
Regular opportunities playing in Europe may just be what he needs to give Wenger a selection headache at the back in the future. There’s no doubting that Chambers is a talented defender, he just needs to be playing week in, week out to try and force his way back into the Arsenal team.
Tipped by many to not be at the Emirates Stadium this season, the Europa League looks like it could offer Wilshere a lifeline. With Wenger expected to rotate his usual midfield, the 25-year-old is in line to make his first start for the club in more than a year on Thursday night.
After breaking his leg for Bournemouth last season, Wilshere is now fit and ready to help save his Arsenal career. A number of clubs from across Europe had wanted to sign the player in the summer, yet the midfielder decided to remain in north London to fight for his place.
This is the player that all Arsenal fans want to see in the first team over the next few weeks. Nelson has earned rave reviews playing for the club’s Under-23 side this season and he was rightfully named as Player of the Month for August in Premier League 2. With six goals in four games, including a stunning free-kick against Manchester United last time out, the 17-year-old is on the verge of featuring for the first-team squad.
Although Wenger has so far resisted the temptation to hand the youngster his debut, that could well come on Thursday night. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s departure has certainly opened the door for Nelson and he could well play his part against Cologne. While Wenger may remain cautious to throwing him into Premier League action at present, opportunities in the Europa League and the Carabao Cup could pave the way to the first team for the talented youngster.