The Europa League can sometimes be a distraction for Premier League teams and it certainly seems that Arsenal will be using it as an opportunity to shuffle the pack with one eye on the weekend.
Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech, Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny all missed training on Tuesday, suggesting they won't be included in the squad to face Cologne as the Gunners prepare for their opening group game at the Emirates Stadium. In total, seven first team players didn’t take part in the session, so there could be plenty of changes in store for Thursday’s clash.
That has prompted plenty of support for the visiting side, with bet365 cutting the underdogs from 11/1 (12.0) to 15/2 (8.50) as eagle-eyed punters spot an opportunity to oppose a squad that could be far from their best.
bet365’s Steve Freeth said: “It’s hard to know at this stage how high the Europa League rates in Wenger’s priorities, but the reports of seven players being rested, plus the trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday, has triggered many a speculative wager on the Bundesliga outfit.”
Drawn in Group H alongside BATE Borisov and Crvena Zvezda, Arsenal should still feel confident of securing a place in the next round of the competition and Arsene Wenger has indicated, while he is set on squad rotation for now, he may consider changing that approach towards the end of the year.
The Gunners are 8/1 (9.0) second favourites to win the tournament and as Manchester United showed last season, this is a viable route back to Europe's premier club competition for teams who are struggling for qualification via their domestic league.
That certainly seems to be the case here. Arsenal are now 4/9 (1.44) not to finish in the top four having picked up just six points from as many Premier League matches thus far.
With the prospect of a trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday against a team who have an extra two days of rest, that quote on Wenger's side missing out on a top four spot could well get even shorter by next week.