Well, that didn’t work — again. By now you’ll know that Arsenal’s 4th straight home loss in the league is the first time since 1959. So as the Gunners sit in 15th, just five points out of the relegation zone, who is ready for a change? For everyone clamoring to see more Premier League minutes for the Europa League crew, Wednesday just might be your chance.
In this upsidedown world we find ourselves in, Arsenal host 4th place Southampton in the midweek feature. The Saints are just two points off the top of the table and have only lost once in their last ten matches. Mikel Arteta has been hesitant to sit any of the big names for Premier League matches, despite positive individual performances in the Europa League, and the schedule has played to his favor in that regard. However, Wednesday’s fixture offers a real opportunity to rotate the lineup for a Premier League match as he searches for any combination that can ignite the attack. Is this the best XI? No, but it’s time to go searching for answers rather than just trying the same thing over and over.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Bukayo Saka
- Mohamed Elneny
- Kieran Tierney
- Alex Runarsson
- Left Out: Willian, Emile Smith Rowe, Héctor Bellerín, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, William Saliba
- Out: Granit Xhaka (red card), Thomas Partey (thigh injury), Gabriel Martinelli (returning to full fitness, appeared in the last U23s match), David Luiz (head injury).
- Now there is every chance that Arteta will continue with a similar lineup to Sunday. But why? It’s clearly not working and what harm is there at this point in giving other players a shot? And if he plays the same players on Wednesday, when are they getting a rest? At the weekend against Everton? In the League Cup semi-final against Manchester City? Chelsea on Boxing Day?
- However, I’ve opted to imagine almost a completely fresh starting XI. Nketiah deserves to start and Pepe surely returns after missing the last three Premier League matches. Nketiah (5) is the club’s leading scorer and no one has been involved in more goals this season for Arsenal than Pepe (7). Willock and Ceballos are safe bets to start. The hardest ones to imagine on the bench are Aubameyang, Tierney, and Gabriel, but I say rest them here and in the League Cup, saving them for the weekends (Everton & Chelsea) and as subs midweek when needed.
- The backline is the risk in this lineup. Mari and Mustafi are viable. Cedric has improved in his Europa League matches, but will that carry over here against his old club? Saka and Maitland-Niles might be ‘safer’ options at fullback, even though neither are true fullbacks. In that scenario, Willock could drop to central midfield and Smith Rowe brought in as the attacking midfielder.
- Lacazette came out early on Sunday as a result of a tactical shift following Xhaka’s red card, so he may be in contention to start again on Wednesday in that #10 if it’s not Willock or ESR (or Saka).
- Is this Arsenal’s best lineup? No. But after winning just one league match in their past eight, why exactly shouldn’t Arteta try something new? He hasn’t shown a lot of flexibility in the league starting XIs lately but was clearly frustrated following the loss to Burnley. So after that XI lost on Sunday, how many spots are you rotating?
How to watch
Wednesday (12/16) at 1:00 pm ET / 10:00 am PT on NBCSN.