Arsenal vs. Molde FK: Europa League Predicted Lineup & Bench

Twice this season Arsenal has turned weekend Premier League disappointment into Europa League success. Now the Gunners get not only another chance to put a foot forward, but create clear distance in Group B. At the start of the month Arsenal cruised past Molde 4-1 with goals from Pepe and Joe Willock to top the group and now travel Norway for the return leg.

A win on Thursday keeps a perfect record in group play and would move Arsenal six points clear with only two matches to go. A favorable result in the Rapid Vienna v. Dundalk match could see Arsenal clinch a spot in the knockout rounds and open the door for younger players to get first team action in the final group stage games (i.e. Folarin Balogun & Emile Smith Rowe). With five, potentially six, players ruled out, Pepe’s Premier League suspension to consider, and the expanded Europe League bench, how much will Mikel Arteta push the attack?

Predicted Starting XI


  1. Alexandre Lacazette
  2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
  3. Folarin Balogun
  4. Willian
  5. Emile Smith Rowe
  6. Ben Cottrell
  7. Gabriel
  8. Rob Holding
  9. Callum Chambers
  10. Héctor Bellerín
  11. Kieran Tierney
  12. Bernd Leno

Notes on the XI:

  • Left Out: Bukayo Saka (awaiting injury update)
  • Injured: Thomas Partey (Thigh), Mohamed Elneny (COVID), Sead Kolasinac (COVID) Pablo Mari (back in full training), Gabriel Martinelli (returning to light training)
  • With the fixture congestion and recent international windows several key players need to be rested on Thursday and saved for the weekend against Wolves – Leno, Aubameyang, Tierney, Bellerin, & Gabriel.
  • Likewise several players are due a start and Thursday provides the perfect opportunity – Runarsson, Nketiah, Nelson, Maitland-Niles, Cedric, and Willock, even though we saw him on the weekend.
  • With Holding and Gabriel getting the start and clean sheet against Leeds on Sunday, you expected to see them again against Wolves on Sunday and thus Mustafi and Luiz rotate in here. But with Kolasinac out with COVID, Tierney needing a rest, and Chambers still on his way back to full fitness, Arteta should stick to a back four against this opposition. Alternatively, Xhaka could play as the LCB, shifting to a 3-4-3 with a midfield line of Maitland-Niles, Willock, Ceballos, Cedric.
  • On the front line, Reiss Nelson had a great outing in the last Europa League match which should earn a start Thursday. Up top Nketiah would be the preferred option, but will Mikel sit Lacazette twice in a row? He should, as Alexandre would be a suitable second option and probably returns to the starting lineup against Wolves.
  • Then there is Pepe. Sunday’s incident was unfortunate, but a rare moment for the player. It was his first career red card for club or country in over 230 matches. However, factors indicate that Pepe should start again Thursday. He is the second most productive attacker for Arsenal so far this season (three goals and two assists). Much of that has come in the Europa League so why not…

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