On Sunday Arsenal complete the first portion of this crammed and unique 2020-21 season. A win against Sheffield United will give the Gunners six positive results from the opening seven fixtures, nine points from twelve in the Premier League, into the Quarterfinals of the League Cup, and the Community Shield. Not a bad start, especially when you consider the only loss at the moment is away to Liverpool in the league.
But first Mikel Arteta has to lift the Arsenal attack after two matches against Liverpool in short order which saw the side struggling to create a lot of quality scoring chances. Sheffield have dropped their first three matches of the Premier League season so far and were knocked out of the League Cup by Burnley on penalties. They need a win badly.
On the team news front, Cedric returned from injury to start on Thursday and Sokratis is back in full training, moving Arsenal’s injured list down to five players at the moment. Emile Smith Rowe is the next player set for a return, who will be hoping to feature in the Europa League group stage matches which begin later this month. On to the predicted XI heading into the first international break.
Predicted Starting XI
- Eddie Nketiah
- Bukayo Saka
- Nicolas Pepe
- Joe Willock
- Granit Xhaka
- Alex Runarsson
Notes on the XI:
- Left Out: Reiss Nelson, Lucas Torreira, Sead Kolasinac, William Saliba, Mesut Özil, Mattéo Guendouzi, Cedric Soares, Sokratis
- Injured: Emile Smith Rowe, Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Mari, Gabriel Martinelli & Calum Chambers.
- With three matches in seven days, the starting lineup seems mostly set for this Sunday fixture after Arteta set the team on Monday against Liverpool - and escaping both matches without injuries this week.
- Lacazette (3 goals to start the year), Aubameyang, Willian (needs a bounce back), Leno, Tierney, Bellerin, Luiz are all easy to pencil in.
- In the midfield, Mikel started Xhaka and Willock on Thursday, giving the presumption that Dani and Elneny might pair this weekend. Ceballos definitely has earned a start here. Granit played the full 90 in the Cup, so Arteta may use Elneny from the start once again. But if that is the case, Arsenal will need Bellerin and Maitland-Niles to get forward often.
- A few toss ups are (1) Will Holding start 3 matches in 7 days or will Gabriel replace him as the right side CB? (2) Or could Maitland-Niles be moved to the bench, Tierney to LWB and Gabriel brought in there as the LCB? That second scenario leaves Arsenal with having to put Kolasinac as the CB backup option, since it is unlikely that Sokratis is ready for the bench yet. With the team juggling multiple matches each week, Mikel might prefer to have Luiz and Gabriel rotate at the center the defense rather than have both for Premier League games and then have to rely on Sokratis in that role for Europe.
- After the break I’d expect to see Xhaka paired with Ceballos for Premier League matches again and Runarsson debut on 10/22 against Rapid Vien in the opening Europa League fixture.
How to watch
Sunday (10/4) at 9:00 am ET / 6:00 am PT on Peacock Premium.