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Arsenal vs. Chelsea: Predicted Lineup & Bench

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Brace yourself. Xhaka is coming.

Arsenal Training Session Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Here we go again. Back to the Premier Leauge, against another London rival and another top of the table club. Chelsea have the second best attack in the league with 29 goals and are tied for the third best defense at just 14 allowed. Scroll on down and we find Arsenal, 15th place, 12 goals scored, and 18 allowed. Mikel Arteta desperately needs to change the narrative and for someone, or perhaps more accurately several someones, to step forward and take charge in this squad.

From the club’s official team news update, it seems safe to expect that Aubameyang and Martinelli will be withheld from the squad, Thomas Partey continues his rehab and Granit Xhaka has been freed once again to wreak havoc or surprise on Saturday. The Gunners last non-Europa League win was back on November 1st, 1-0 over Manchester United. That result was a bit of a surprise then, but a victory on Saturday would not only be a huge shock, but perhaps (we can dream right?) the start of a turnaround.

Predicted XI

Bench

  1. Alexandre Lacazette
  2. Willian
  3. Dani Ceballos
  4. Joe Willock
  5. Reiss Nelson
  6. Emile Smith Rowe
  7. Ainsley Maitland-Niles
  8. Shkodran Mustafi
  9. Alex Runarsson (please don’t get hurt Leno)
  • Left Out: Cedric Soares, Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac, Pablo Mari
  • Out: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (calf), Thomas Partey (thigh injury), Gabriel Martinelli (right shin)
  • With Aubameyang out, Bukayo Saka can step into the left side attacking role, and then Pepe likely given another start over Willian. The best of the two options and Reiss Nelson. And where exactly is Reiss Nelson? He missed out on the entire League Cup squad and still isn’t on the injury report. I’ve given him a spot on the expanded bench one last time before we begin to assume that he and Arteta clearly had a falling out.
  • Up top Nketiah gets the start, saving Lacazette for the second half. Perhaps if Nelson is out of the squad for Saturday, Folarin Balogun steps in considering both Auba and Martinelli won’t be available.
  • In midfield, having sat out the last three matches, Granit Xhaka is set to return. Considering Chelsea’s attack I can see Arteta starting both Xhaka and Elneny to help protect the backline, which will allow Tierney and Bellerin out wide to push forward into the attack more often. It’s a conservative lineup, which is par for the course with Arteta lately, and considering Arsenal’s recent record and Chelsea’s firepower, probably the safe bet.
  • The Gunners need a back three again, but luckily Arteta has his best options available - Gabriel, Luiz & Holding. We didn’t see Mari at the weekend, but it’s hard to imagine that he has risen up the depth chart enough to have been saved for this game.
  • The bench has plenty of options between Lacazette, Willock, Maitland-Niles, Smith Rowe, and Nelson (or Balogun). So, what is your confidence (%) that the Gunners get a win at the Emirates?

How to watch

Saturday (12/26) at 12:30 pm ET / 9:30 am PT on NBC.