Update: Late Saturday The Athletic’s David Ornstein revealed that Arsenal will be without Aubameyang and Smith Rowe on Sunday. As such, I’ve updated the predicted starting XI as follows:
Those moves would open up two spots on the bench, for which I’d expect Arteta to add two from Reiss Nelson, Folarin Balogun & Miguel Azzez.
Sunday offers a golden opportunity to turn things around as Arsenal’s season sits on the edge. The first leg against Slavia Prague was a frustrating result, as we saw solid chances go missing, and then Pepe’s great goal overshadowed by the late equalizer. This weekend’s trip to Bramall Lane is the best chance at three league points as Mikel Arteta will likely get for the rest of the season.
Sheffield United have undeniably been the worst team in the league to date, sitting in 20th place on just 14 points and assured relegation long ago. They’ve only managed 17 goals from 30 league matches and have lost their last four matches by a combined score of 11-1. Last time out they managed just one shot on target. If there is any match for Arsenal to rebuild their confidence it should be this one.
Arsenal’s next five league matches are Sheffield United, Fulham Everton, Newcastle, and West Brom. That’s the bottom four plus Everton. 15 points for the taking. A tall task based on Arsenal’s recent form, but not impossible. But first Mikel Arteta needs to find the right lineup on Sunday to take advantage of Sheffield’s poor form.
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Eddie Nketiah
- Dani Ceballos
- Granit Xhaka
- Hector Bellerin
- Mat Ryan
- Left Out: Reiss Nelson, & Alex Runarsson
- Out: David Luiz (knee), Martin Odegaard (Ankle), & Kieran Tierney (Knee)
- On Thursday both Lacazette and Saka failed to convert on what few chances the attack created. After two straight matches of lackluster offense we need something new. The trio of Pepe-Aubameyang-Martinelli brought life into the end of the first leg against Slavia Prague. And while you might be tempted to save them for next Thursday, Arsenal can win this match, should win this match, really need some momentum heading into the second leg, and they can recover in time for the second leg.
- Pepe’s earned the start (up to nine goals now), Martinelli deserves this chance, especially with Arsenal continually searching for goals (Gabby has 10 goals last season), and I’m hoping Smith Rowe came off on Thursday in enough time that he is ready to take up the central role while Odegaard is out. If Smith Rowe is unavailable or unable to start, expect Willian in that spot.
- I know this might be impossible, but I wonder if Arteta might give Xhaka a rest on Sunday to make sure he is 100% for the second leg against Slavia Prague. I feel confident in Elneny against Sheffield United and with him sitting back, either Thomas Partey or Dani Ceballos could stay further forward to help create chances against what is sure to be a defensive setup from Sheffield.
- Further changes are needed in defense, from Thursday’s performance and keeping mind the second leg. Cedric and Bellerin will probably be left in reserve to start again next Thursday, even if the defense fell asleep on that late stoppage time goal. Saka fills in at left back with Chambers on the right. I could also see a back three of Mari-Gabriel-Holding, with Saka and Chambers as wide midfielders and perhaps starting without Smith Rowe.
How to watch
Sunday (4/11) at 2:00 pm ET / 11:00 am PT on Peacock Premium.
Arsenal - 2
Sheffield United - 0
Who is in your starting XI for Saturday and what is your scoreline prediction?