You didn’t dream it. Arsenal won on Thursday, reversing a brutal opening week of action for the Gunners. The two-nil victory over Southampton gives Arsenal some much need confidence heading into Sunday’s FA Cup Quarterfinal. With yet another road trip, how should Mikel Arteta set up the team against Sheffield United after a win and clean sheet, but dealing with injuries and matches every few days.
This week I’m dropping some of the elements from the predicted XI post and instead presenting a new format with two options.
Option 1 - Match Sheffield with a 3-5-2
- Bench: Macey - Tierney - Holding - Bellerin - Ceballos - Saka - Nketiah - Ozil - Pepe
- On Thursday Arsenal found success pushing Tierney inside as a 3rd CB at times and using Bellerin and Saka as wingbacks. Knowing that Sheffield United like to use a similar format, Arteta may attempt to mirror that while helping provide extra coverage for what would be a mostly defensive B-team.
- If using wingbacks from the start, Kolasinac comes in for Tierney who left Thursday cramping and Mikel could bring in Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the right. Arteta views AMN as a midfielder rather than a right-back, so this might offer a nice compromise and based on the need.
- David Luiz is available for selection again and Sokratis should be fully fit now to line up alongside Mustafi in a back three. This gives Rob Holding a rest, who has also been working back from injury this year.
- In the center of the pitch, Xhaka clearly demonstrated his importance to the team against Southampton and could be paired with Willock who notched his first Premier League goal on Thursday. Torriera is still out, Guendouzi was left out last time out, so it’s down to Willock vs Ceballos. Willock offers more in attack, which will be left with just the front three.
- Lacazette seems the safest bet after starting on the bench Thursday, while Reiss Nelson has failed to start since the return and can hopefully get a run out while Pepe rotates out. On the left it comes down to going with two young wingers with Saka, or playing Aubameyang despite the over reliance. This is Arteta’s only chance to win a trophy and salvage something this year, which is why I think he sticks with Auba.
Option 2 - The Classic Arsenal 4-2-3-1
- Bench: Macey - Tierney - Mustafi - Maitland-Niles - Ceballos - Aubameyang - Nketiah - Guendouzi - Pepe
- Presenting the Ozil option. With four matches in short order, Mesut has to finally see the pitch eventually. Or might the club be trying to keep him healthy in order to have any chance of selling him this summer? This is the only formation Ozil fits into now, with Lacazette rotating in up from and two attacking wingers flanking Mesut. In this scenario Aubameyang waits in reserve if a goal is needed in the second half.
- If they are using a back four it seems as though Bellerin would have to start again, since Arteta doesn’t view AMN as a right-back and Soares still isn’t available for selection.
- Despite a clean sheet, I could see the rest of the backline rotating for fitness purposes, bringing in Kolasinac, Sokratis and Luiz for Tierney, Mustafi and Holding. All of whom would then return for the next Premier League match on Wednesday against Norwich (at home finally).
- Just like before, Xhaka needs to start after his important performance on Thursday, and Willock should be rewarded with Torriera still out and Guendouzi unlikely to back in full favor just yet.
How to watch
Sunday (6/28) at 8:00 am ET / 5:00 am PT on ESPN+.
How to do you like the new format for the predicted starting XI? Prefer two options over one prediction and dropping the gallery? How should Arteta set up Arsenal on Sunday?