Luton preview: Rotation required, but how much, and who?

We’re in Premier League action tonight, taking on Luton at the Emirates.

With a trip to Brighton on Saturday and a Champions League game against Bayern on Tuesday – coming after that big effort against Man City on Sunday – there’s a good case for Mikel Arteta to rotate his side a bit this evening. With all due respect to tonight’s opposition,  a team who gave us a big scare earlier in the season and are no pushovers, you could see how it’s a chance to rest a few and get some competitive minutes into the legs of some others.

To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw a fair few changes, but knowing the manager, it wouldn’t surprise me to see less rotation than some people might like. He was asked if too many alterations might be disruptive, and said:

That’s a good question. We are always wondering about that and it’s just changing certain personnel in certain moments and those relationships between the players. How long they have played together, how much time they have spent together, that can affect it as well – that’s related to what they do in training every single day. We’ll look at all these things and will try to find the right team to win.

Today, I could see something like this: Raya, Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Partey, Rice, Odegaard, Martinelli, Jesus, Trossard.

That’s five changes from the side that played on Sunday. You could also throw Fabio Vieira into the mix as an option for the right-hand side if he is minded to rest Bukayo Saka. To me that seems like an obvious thing to do (rest Saka), but his comments about how it was fatigue against Man City give me some pause for thought there. Still, he didn’t look 100% to me on Sunday, and I suspect the best thing this evening would be to give him the night off unless he’s absolutely needed. Get those batteries fully charged for the weekend, and basically every game between now and the end of the season because we’re going to need him for most of them.

Now, it might be a case that Arteta feels the best thing to do, the best way to respect this fixture and the opposition, is to start a strong side and make changes if we get into a commanding lead. We saw that against West Ham and Sheffield United recently. For me though, I’d be inclined to go the other way, which is to show some trust in players you’re going to need during the run-in. It just feels like it would be more beneficial if you rotated your side and they put in a good, effective performance. And if they don’t, you have the safety net of important players on the bench who have a track record of delivering when you need them.

It is a balancing act, and you can’t be sure that if you start a strong side it will be in a position after an hour where you can make those changes. So, I’d certainly like to see the depth of the squad used this evening, and for those players to step up and deliver against a Luton side who are beset by injuries and absences. That doesn’t mean we take anything for granted, they are the newly promoted side who have impressed me most this season, because they have got to grips with the Premier League in a way the other two really haven’t. I thought they looked completely out of their depth early on, but Rob Edwards has done a fantastic job, and they are not an easy team to beat.

But as we look at Liverpool’s game against Sheffield United tomorrow night and think that’s gonna be a slam-dunk for our title rivals, we have to try and do the same with tonight’s fixture. There’s enough quality in the team and on the bench to feel confident without being cocky, and let’s hope we can produce the performance we need.

As ever, you can follow the game with us on the live blog, we’ll have all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News, and we have a preview podcast available on Patreon right now too.

For now, take it easy, and come on you reds!

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