On another day Aubameyang puts that game away and Emile Smith Rowe isn’t right in the way to Pepe’s shot. But there is something to be said about still walking away with positives even with the match doesn’t go your way. Arsenal is through to the quarterfinals of the Europa League where they will take on Slavia Praha. 538 has the Gunners as second favorites to win the Final.
With the next round now secured and weeks away, we have one more match before the international break. Away (barely) to West Ham who have thoroughly outperformed predictions this season. The Hammers are currently in fifth place, seven points ahead of Arsenal, but are coming off a very defensive-minded performance and 1-0 loss to Manchester United.
If Arsenal can take control early, pressing, and looking to attack quickly they could put this one away by halftime, in what would be another huge Premier League win (yes, that says a lot about the current state of us, them, and the league right now). But Arsenal can’t sleep on this squad, under David Moyes they can make life difficult and have the potential to strike quickly, against the run of play. With two weeks off (for a portion of the squad) after this match, who is in your starting XI for Sunday?
- Nicolas Pepe
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Mohamed Elneny
- Dani Ceballos
- David Luiz
- Mat Ryan
- Left Out: Calum Chambers, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, & Alex Runarsson
- Out: Bukayo Saka
- Firstly, we won’t know the official status on Bukayo Saka until at least tomorrow, if not match day, but right now it looks unlikely he will start. If he does, great, but if he is held out of this match, Arsenal has the international break to get him back to full fitness for the Liverpool game in early April. Additionally, Willian doesn’t appear on the Arsenal injury list as part of their match preview, but between missing Thursday and plenty of other in-form attacking alternatives, I have him on the bench for Sunday.
- In the back, we could easily see Cedric in place for Bellerin or Tierney, but I’ve given the edge to Hector once again. Cedric has turned into a crucial addition from last winter’s transfer window with Arsenal down to just three true fullbacks at the moment in a crunch football calendar. In the center, it might be wishful thinking, but surely Pablo Mari and Rob Holding get a match finally...right? Gabriel and David Luiz have paired for the last three starts, so perhaps Arteta prefers to right who is in form (giving up a goal a match)?
- With Elneny and Ceballos starting alongside Xhaka on Thursday, neither making a huge impact, and both being subbed out, a return to Xhaka-Partey against West Ham is the best bet. In front of them, Martin Odegaard has to get the start. With two goals over the last three matches, the new Norwegian captain is really making the case that Arsenal needs to secure his permanent signing over the summer.
- On Thursday the attack failed to score and failed to put away a few great chances (mostly Aubameyang who had a day to forget). With Pepe also having little impact, besides his should have been a goal if not for Smith Rowe’s head, Sunday needs to see Lacazette back in the fold. At 12 goals so far this season he is the 2nd leading scorer on the team, tying his total for last year already, and is now tied for 5th in the Premier League for goals/90.
- To round out the attack, Emile Smith Rowe should start, close to the point where Saka is when fit, both of whom have had terrific seasons. You would be excused if you got lost daydreaming about the potential future attacking front four of Smith Rowe-Odegaard-Saka behind a new in-form striker or Martinelli as he continues to develop over the next two seasons. While it would be nice to see Martinelli get a start, Aubameyang is the pick for Sunday.
How to watch
Sunday (3/21) at 11:00 am ET / 8:00 am PT on Peacock Premium.
Arsenal - 1
West Ham- 1