Patience rewarded. Without Aubemyang. Without Saka. Arteta rolled out Lacazette, Pepe, and Willian to face off against Leicester City. A side Arsenal hadn’t beaten in the league at home since 2015. (A predicted XI that was 100%). Willian had his best game in an Arsenal shirt, and perhaps only third good match this season, but let’s stick to the positives. Pepe continues to grow into his own and caused trouble for the Foxes from the start. The only issue from the result was the first half substitution when Emile Smith Rowe went off injured.
Now after a much-needed midweek break, Arsenal heads to Turf Moor to take on 15th place Burnley. Back in December, the Gunners fell to Burnley 1-0 thanks for an Aubameyang own goal and a Granit Xhaka red card — a day to forget. But expectations will be different on Saturday as Burnley has just one win in their last nine matches. A win is needed to keep any hopes of clinching a European position from the league table. But with an away trip to Greece coming up next, how will Mikel Arteta set up the Arsenal?
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Dani Ceballos
- Mohamed Elneny
- Rob Holding
- Mat Ryan
- Left Out: Calum Chambers, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, & Alex Runarsson
- Out: Emile Smith Rowe (questionable)
- With a week off since the win over Leicester and five days before the trip to Greece for the Europa League, Arteta can roll out his preferred XI. That means Aubameyang is back up top and Saka will be threatening from the wings again. Pepe had another step forward last weekend and is a must-start Saturday. The wide duo of Saka and Pepe is nearly guaranteed to draw yellow cards, great free-kick opportunities, and keep the opposing fullbacks busy all match.
- Despite playing well last week Willian and Lacazette drop to the bench. Or as an alternative, if Laca, Pepe, and Willian start again on Saturday, does that indicate Arteta is reserving Auba and Saka for the Europe League? But sitting 10 points back of 4th, with a match in hand, he shouldn’t disregard the league position yet, especially with 12 games remaining.
- In the midfield, I’d start Odegaard, even if Smith Rowe is cleared for selection. His status is unknown at the time of writing, but Arteta’s comments were positive that the issue wasn’t serious. Even so, Emile should be saved for the first leg against Olympiacos next Thursday. Behind him, Xhaka and Partey finally team up once again from the start, but I’d expect Partey to exit first from this group to keep him as fresh as possible looking ahead to the Europa League.
- The defense that limited Leicester’s attack is mostly unchanged, with just Hector Bellerin returning to his start right-back role. Cedric has provided solid fullback coverage for both Bellerin and Tierney, and I could see him starting leg one next Thursday. In the center, even with Rob Holding returning to the bench last week, Mari & Luiz earned another runout. And again seeing how crucial three points Saturday is, as well as a solid opening tie against Olympiacos, it is good that Arsenal is running with full defensive options at the moment (knock on wood).
How to watch
Saturday (3/6) at 7:30 am ET / 4:30 am PT on NBCSN.
Arsenal - 2
Burnley - 0