You never get used to international breaks. It seems like much more time has passed since Arsenal’s forgettable outing against Aston Villa, but perhaps the break was a much needed reset. The task ahead for Mikel Arteta doesn’t get any easier with Leeds United, Wolves and the North London Derby up next in the Premier League.
The Gunners are in 12th place on 12 points, but despite several underwhelming performances in the league are only four points out of 4th place. Leeds had a strong start in their return to the Premier League, but after picking up four points from their last 15 now sit in 15th place two points before Arsenal. So how might the squad look as they travel to Elland Road?
Predicted Starting XI
- Joe Willock
- Eddie Nketiah
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles
- Shkodran Mustafi
- Rob Holding
- Emile Smith Rowe
- Alex Runarsson
Notes on the XI:
- Left Out: Sokratis (played 71 minutes for the U23s on Friday), Calum Chambers (played 76 minutes for the U23s on Friday), William Saliba (played the full 90 for the U23s), Matt Macey (U23s), Willian (held out due to travel during international break), Cedric, Reiss Nelson
- [Updated] Out: Thomas Partey (Thigh Injury), Mohamed Elneny (COVID), Sead Kolasinac (COVID), Pablo Mari (back in training), Gabriel Martinelli (back in training)
- Three CBs or a back four? Knowing how Leeds play, I’ve got Arteta opting for a 4-3-3. Leno, Tierney, Gabriel, Bellerin, and Aubameyang are locks baring a late injury. With Partey and Elneny ruled out, Xhaka and Ceballos become near locks as well.
- For the backline I’ve gone with Luiz’s experience against Leeds over Holding who has recently paired well with Gabriel. To complete the midfield, Saka on the left to create an ideal Auba-Saka-Tierney side of the pitch Arsenal should focus on Sunday.
- Opposite of Aubameyang I’ve went with Pepe over Willian. Between Willian’s trip, his dip in performance and Pepe’s improvement in Europa League matches, Pepe should the starter. Only two players have accumulated five goals+assists so far this season - Aubameyang and Pepe. Both should start. Attention on Saka & Aubameyang on the left hopefully creates more space and quick switch of play opportunities for Pepe.
- Lastly, it’s Lacazette vs. Nketiah. Against most opponents I’d put Eddie in after Lacazette has struggled to turn chances into goals lately. However, against Leeds United’s style of play I expect Arsenal to be in need of lots of hold up play to gain some relief and kick start transitions. Lacazette is still the best option the Gunners have for that at the moment. Nketiah & Willock on in the second half to jump start the attack.
- [Updated] Most of the bench is straightforward once you have a starting XI. Two players are ruled out due to positive COVID results, Partey’s thigh injury and three are still returning from injuries. After Willian’s trip, even though Arteta says it has been dealt with, it’s hard to see him in the starting lineup with his current form. Cedric starts next week in the Europa League, with Maitland-Niles providing right-back coverage from the bench. The final bench spot is tough. Nelson typically gets the nod, but before the break he had a slight knock which held him out and we aren’t 100% on his status until tomorrow. Smith Rowe scored the winner for the U23s and was subbed off at half-time without an injury. Perhaps I’m reading too much into taking him off early, but for now I’ve got ESR on the bench.
How to watch
Sunday (11/22) at 11:30 am ET / 8:30 am PT on NBCSN.