Six unbeaten in the league, five wins during that run, and up to ninth place in the league. Lacazette is ninth in the EPL Golden Boot race and already has 10 goals this season (compared to 12 last season). Similarly, the up-and-down Pepe now has six goals (after 8 last). Bukayo Saka continues to thrive wherever he is deployed, Emile Smith Rowe has revitalized the #10 role for Arsenal, and Martinelli has provided glimpses of how exciting he can be in the attack (if he can only shake his bad injury luck).
Add in the arrival of Martin Ødegaard, the clearing of the books with Ozil and Sokratis (plus maybe more), and eventual return at peak form of Aubameyang, Partey, Mari, and Gabriel. It’s exciting times at Arsenal once again. Despite any result on Saturday, you can see Mikel Arteta and Edu start to slowly turn the ship that we knew would take a few windows, a few seasons, to get things back on track. There is still a long way to go. Arsenal are still 9th and haven’t been in the Champions League for years, but there are reasons to believe again.
United meanwhile head into the weekend in 2nd place and on the back of a surprising loss to Sheffield United on Wednesday. Prior to that Manchester United had once lost once since December 9th and that came from their cross-town rivals Manchester City 2-0 in the League Cup. For their last Premier League loss before the Sheffield upset? You’d have to go back to November 1st when a PK from Aubameyang gave Arsenal a big road win. Saturday’s match-up will be telling in United’s ability to respond to that unexpected loss and if they can keep up with City in the title race.
For Arsenal the lineup nearly sets itself. It’ll be an especially good test for Emile Smith Rowe who has shined during this undefeated run and on the back of the arrival of Martin Ødegaard. The team is in its best form of the season, who are you starting at the Emirates Saturday and who makes the bench?
- Eddie Nketiah
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Martin Ødegaard
- Dani Ceballos
- Joe Willock
- Cedric Soares
- Mathew Ryan
- Left Out: Calum Chambers, Mohamed Elneny, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Alex Runarsson & Shkodran Mustafi
- Out: Pablo Mari (calf issue), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (personal issue)
- Did you really expect much to change from the winning squad on Tuesday? If Kieran Tierney is fit he comes back in for Cedric, who didn’t play that bad on his second run out at left-back for Arsenal. And if Aubameyang were available then I’d have him on the attacking line in place of Pepe. Based on Arteta’s comments yesterday, it seems as though Tierney is possible, but Aubameyang is unlikely.
- Outside of maybe Martinelli, there isn’t really a name that jumps off that bench who you think deserves to be in the starting XI at the moment. Gabriel isn’t back to his peak form yet, Ceballos is returning from an injury, and Ødegaard isn’t starting day one with little time in training, especially against United.
- Despite the expanded bench and recent departures Arsenal still has a very large roster. When you consider all the senior players out on loan at the moment, the front office should have a busy summer ahead. This window has shown their willingness to make the moves needed to rebuild the squad and fix the wage bill — even if that means cutting players for free, something that hopefully ends within the next window or two.
- Hopefully in the next few days, we see the announcement of loans for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, and Alex Runarsson for the back half of the season. A potentially the exit of Shkodran Mustafi. Although given Arsenal’s CB injury history I’d prefer to keep Mustafi until the summer.
How to watch
Saturday (1/30) at 12:30 pm ET / 9:30 am PT on NBC.
Arsenal - 2
Manchester United - 1