From what could have been fourth to now sitting 11th heading into the weekend, Mikel Arteta will be looking for attacking solutions as the Gunners travel to 15th place Manchester United. A rare clash between these two clubs who, in an uncommon occurrence, are both sitting in the bottom half of the table. United have the more in-form attack of the two, but Arsenal’s defense in the league has been solid - 2nd best with just seven goals allowed, compared to Manchester’s 12 goals allowed in five matches.
While Arteta has managed to collect a decent start to the season - the Community Shield, three league wins, and progressing to the League Cup quarterfinals - losses in their three biggest matches of the season looms large at the moment. An away win could push Arsenal close to the top four once again and show improvements in the attack against a marquee opponent. After struggling to turn first half control into goals last week against Leicester City, how should the manager change the starting lineup as they head to Old Trafford?
Predicted Starting XI
- Granit Xhaka
- Eddie Nketiah
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles
- Sead Kolasinac
- Joe Willock
- Alex Runarsson
Notes on the XI:
- Left Out: Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Mohamed Elneny, Cedric Soares, & William Saliba
- Injured: (As of writing on 10/30) David Luiz, Rob Holding, Pablo Mari, Gabriel Martinelli & Calum Chambers.
- David Luiz may very well be fit for selection, but we won’t know that until Saturday. However, starting Gabriel and Mustafi is likely the better duo in this scenario. Arteta should push the formation to create a bit more attack after last weekend’s effort and Luiz could be an option off the bench rather than pushing him in for a potential 90 minutes in order to be cautious with his injury. If Luiz is fit, I’d add him to the bench and drop Kolasinac.
- The lineup takes the XI against Leicester City and shifts the third center back (Xhaka) out of the formation for another attacker (Pepe). Xhaka is the biggest exclusion, but I could see him being left on the bench to start Partey and Ceballos, thus allowing Granit to be coverage for both the midfield and backline.
- Does anyone really expect any of the following not to start - Aubameyang, Lacazette, Leno, Tierney, Bellerin, Gabriel, Partey & Ceballos? That’s eight of the eleven locked in, and you could make the argument that Bukayo Saka should be added into that list. That leaves Luiz vs. Mustafi, Xhaka vs. Ceballos, and Pepe vs. Willian vs. another defender. After the attack sputtered in the second half against Leicester City, selecting Ceballos and Pepe offer the best chance at creating more offense and disrupting United’s defense.
- The hardest exclusion from the 18 is Reiss Nelson. He was lively against Dundalk on Thursday and you could easily make the case he earned a spot on the bench for a Premier League match. However, Arteta seems more likely to favor Willian as a sub against United given the situation, opponent, and his experience.
- Going with a more traditional back four, but still allowing Tierney and Bellerin to overlap in the attack should offer more offensive weapons as Arsenal look to fix last week’s woes against Leicester City.
The last Premier League outing didn’t go as planned, but Thursday saw more focus on the attack. Looking for three points against Manchester United, how would you set the starting XI?
How to watch
Sunday (11/1) at 11:30 am ET / 8:30 am PT on Peacock Premium.