Arsenal face a stern test on Saturday morning when Sheffield United, currently 6th in the table, visit the Emirates. The newly promoted Blades are one of the surprises of the Premier League season and are in contention for a European spot. Part of Sheffield’s success in the table can be traced to its away form — a 3-6-2 record with the only losses coming at Anfield and at the Etihad is quite good. That said, when you’ve conceded the second fewest goals in the league, you’re going to manage results home or away.
The Blades’ stingy defense could cause problems for a Gunners side that finds itself without top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Arsenal captain received a straight red against Bournemouth for his heavy challenge on Max Meyer and is serving the first match of a three game suspension. Aubameyang has scored nearly half (14 of 29) of Arsenal’s league goals this season, so Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli have a lot of slack to pick up. And with Lacazette in the midst of a dry spell (no goals in his last 6 matches in all competitions), I wonder how short his leash will be. The Gunners recently decided to keep Eddie Nketiah in North London rather than loan him back out, perhaps he’ll get a run-out if the Frenchman doesn’t deliver.
Arsenal’s injury woes are improving, but things might still be a bit dicey for tomorrow’s match. Sead Kolasinac and Lucas Torreira both face late fitness tests to determine their availability. Hector Bellerin, though back in training, is probably not quite ready. Calum Chambers and Kieran Tierney are out with their respective long-term injuries.
On the visitor’s side of things, Chris Wilder will be without backup keepers Simon Moore (groin) and Michael Verrips (concussion). It shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the Blades because first choice keeper Dean Henderson is fit.
If Arsenal want to propel themselves back up the table, these are the types of games they need to win. Points at home, regardless of who the opponent is, are critical. The Gunners could do with the full three on Saturday.
WHAT: Arsenal v. Sheffield United
WHERE: Emirates Stadium
WHEN: Saturday, January 18th 7 AM PT | 10 AM ET | 3 PM BT
US TV: NBCSN. Stream here.
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