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Arsenal v. Sheffield United: back in action

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Arsenal? That name sounds familiar.

Arsenal Training Session
Will Hector Bellerin make his Premier League return today?
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

The first match back from an international break evokes a similar feeling to the opening match of the season — Arsenal football was away and now it is BACK. The Gunners return to action today at Bramall Lane against 15th-place Sheffield United. With a win today, the club would move into 3rd place, one point behind Manchester City, and one point ahead of both Leicester City and Chelsea.

Today’s match could also have that opening match feeling for Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney. The fullback duo, injured to start the season, could both make their Premier League debuts today (season debut for Bellerin, but you catch my drift). Their return to the lineup would give the Gunners an immediate lift on both sides of the ball.

EDIT: No Bellerin in the 18, Tierney on the bench. The points below still stand.

With how important fullbacks are to Unai Emery’s setup and the aforementioned pair on the shelf to start the season, I’ve tried to be measured in my criticism of Arsenal’s attack. As I (and everyone else) have pointed out, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been carrying an unsustainable load, and the Gunners have been playing hero-ball. Things haven’t looked great, but Arsenal have more or less gotten the job done.

That understanding and leeway stops with the return of Tierney and Bellerin. Emery has a full complement of first-choice players from which to pick his starting eleven. Time is up on the excuses. The imminent return of Alexandre Lacazette, although likely out today, only magnifies that point.

A match-up with 15th place Sheffield United seems like an easy opportunity to trot out a new lineup and see how everything fits together. But as noted Florida State graduate Lee Corso might say, “not so fast my friend.” As our own FSU grad 06Nole noted in his preview, the Blades are stout defensively. Only Chelsea and Leicester have put two past them this season. But for a goalkeeping miscue, the Sheffield would have drawn Liverpool. They do, however, struggle to score; they’ve only managed 7 goals in 8 matches, 2nd worst in the Premier League.

This is a match Arsenal need to win. It is against a newly-promoted, bottom-quarter team, a team the Gunners should beat. It comes at the start of an extremely congested period in the schedule and will set the tone for the next three weeks of football. No excuses, just win baby.

Lineups

Arsenal - Leno, Chambers, Sokratis, David Luiz, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Willock, Pepe, Saka, Aubameyang

Sheffield United - Henderson, O’Connell, Egan, Basham, Stevens, Norwood, Baldock, Fleck, Lundstram, Mousset, McGoldrick

Related Reading:

WHAT: Arsenal at Sheffield United

WHEN: Monday, October 21st, 3:00pm EST/12:00pm PST/8:00pm BST

WHERE: Bramall Lane, Sheffield

HOW TO WATCH: NBC Sports

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Here’s a random Lee Corso fact as a reward for making it all the way down here — Corso was college roommates with Burt Reynolds.