Welcome back Arsenal. If you were taking a break from Gunners’ news during the international window let’s catch up. Martin Odegaard was named the Player of the Month for March. Kieran Tierney led the way with three assists in a 4-0 win in World Cup qualifying. Joe Montemurro announced his departure from leading the Women’s team at the end of the season.
The club launched a new campaign #StopOnlineAbuse (let’s stay positive out there). Financial results were posted online confirming the substantial losses last year. The Arsenal Women won the North London Derby 3-0. Several players helped their countries qualify for the 2021 African Cup of Nations. There was plenty more, but now we look ahead to the weekend.
Arsenal is in 9th place, four points behind this weekend’s opponent Liverpool. The Reds have three wins and three losses in their last six matches, outscoring the Gunners by eight in the league this season, but having conceded four more than Arsenal. How will Mikel Arteta set up the side for the Saturday late game?
- Nicolas Pepe
- Gabriel Martinelli
- Mohamed Elneny
- Dani Ceballos
- David Luiz
- Pablo Mari
- Mat Ryan
- Left Out: Calum Chambers, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, & Alex Runarsson
- Out: Emile Smith Rowe
- Emile Smith Rowe picked up a knock on international duty with the England U21 side. The club likely won’t know his full availability until Friday or match day, so for now, I’ve left him out of the 18. If he passes the fitness test, I could see him on the bench in place of Martinelli. But it might be best to aim for his return in the Europa League quarterfinals.
- Outside of any last-minute injuries Aubameyang, Saka, Odegaard, Lacazette, Xhaka, Tierney and Leno should all be locks for the starting XI.
- The first question comes in at right-back where Cedric has continually improved this season and is really pushing Hector Bellerin for the starting role. Bellerin favors the attack, while Cedric has been better as the traditional fullback against some of the more threatening teams this season. With just five goals from Liverpool's last eight Premier League matches, I’m going with Bellerin.
- All four primary center backs were with the club during the international break so any combination is possible. Mari and Luiz had a rough day against West Ham the last time out, and Gabriel looked solid in the North London Derby a few weeks ago. Gabriel should be the starter, whether it’s Holding or Luiz beside him, that falls to how training has gone this week.
- As we learned this week not only is Xhaka Arsenal’s best midfielder this season but according to the CIES Football Observatory, he’s been Arsenal’s best player so far this season. While he has been reliable, I’m not sure he would top my player of the year ballot. Either way, he starts, regardless of who Arteta wants to pair with him. Hopefully, it’s Partey, who hopefully can have a positive finish to the season and enter the 2021-22 season healthy and back to his top form. Elneny offers protection against Liverpool's attack, but paired with Xhaka Arsenal would really struggle to build up an attack often against Liverpool.
- It’s a solid bench with attacking threats and plenty of options to shore up the defense as the situation dictates. I went back and forth on Ceballos or Chambers, but with Smith Rowe potentially out, I kept Ceballos in. If Chambers is included then Elneny or a CB could be left out.
How to watch
Saturday (4/3) at 3:00 pm ET / 12:00 pm PT on NBCSN.
Arsenal - 2
Liverpool - 2
Who is in your starting XI for Saturday and what is your scoreline prediction?