It’s finally here. And while Arsenal fans may have to wake up earlier on Saturday, we at least get to see the team back in action that much sooner. While there are questions remaining around Aubameyang’s contract, outgoing transfer rumors (Lacazette, Martinez, Guendouzi, Sokratis), incoming rumors (Partey, Aouar) & multiple injuries on the backline (Luiz, Mari, Mustafi & Chambers), there is far more excitement heading into this season than the last.
The Gunners have a short trip over to Craven Cottage early Saturday morning as the club embarks on the first full season under Mikel Arteta. With what looks like a fairly deep squad (wait for it), especially once everyone is fit again, it’s going to be a packed and exciting season ahead for Arsenal. A challenge for the top four in the Premier League? Yet another FA Cup...and the Europa League? A boost in teams goals, while settling into a more sound defense. Let’s kick off.
Predicted Starting XI
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Bukayo Saka
- Joe Willock
- Sead Kolasinac
- Gabriel Magalhaes
- Emi Martinez
Notes on the XI:
- Only four changes from the Community Shield win over Liverpool. Up top Lacazette’s future in this transfer window remains up in the air, so I’m thinking he opts for Nketiah once again. Aubameyang clearly starts and I’ve brought Pepe back in for Saka on the right wing. Although with Saka and Willian on the bench Arteta has plenty of options to rotate the front three or switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
- The wing-backs, or wide midfielders, remain the same, as Tierney is needed on the backline with David Luiz’s late injury. Kolasinac offers a left-CB and left-wingback option, while Saka can fill in at LWB if needed, and AMN remains versatile on either flank, midfield and attacking wings based on need.
- In the midfield Arteta will rely on the Xhaka-Ceballos pairing in the Premier League as long as both are fit and protecting an Arsenal back-line that will continue to adjust as players return from injury and are introduced to life in England this season. I’ve given Joe Willock the nod over Lucas Torreira as the backup CM on opening day.
- Tierney and Holding retain their spots in the back three, with William Saliba stepping in for David Luiz. With so many injuries on the backline, Gabriel makes the bench on opening day. And as expected Bernd Leno makes his return to reclaim the Arsenal starting keeper, with Martinez transfer rumors heating up.
- Even with Arsenal’s injuries (Luiz, Mustafi, Mari, Chambers & Martinelli) the subs bench reverting back to seven from nine forces Arteta into some tough choices. This starting XI and seven-man bench still leaves out Mesut Ozil, Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Lucas Torreira, Mattéo Guendouzi, Sokratis & Cedric Soares.
How to watch
Saturday (9/12) at 7:45 am ET / 4:45 am PT on NBC Sports Network.