The Gunners are fresh off a crucial Champions League victory away to Sevilla and will hopefully return to London with a head of steam and a boost of confidence, which they will try to build on when they host a woefully bad Sheffield United side that has amassed one point from 9 matches this season. The Gunners, while still without a loss and sitting in third, have struggled to score with the same reckless abandon as last season. The Blades are bleeding goals. Are they the sacrificial lamb needed to kick start Arsenal’s scoring?
Here are five talking points ahead of Saturday’s match:
- What’s eating Martin Ødegaard? - Arsenal’s captain has had a rough go of it lately. He has been largely anonymous since returning from the international break. Maybe some of that can be chalked up to playing back-to-back intense matches away from home, but he has not looked his usually composed and influential self lately, especially compared to his incredible form from last season. He was visibly frustrated against Sevilla after being subbed off following a lackluster performance. Does Arteta rest him to let him get his head right and give someone like Fabio Vieira a go, or does he see Saturday as a chance for the captain to get his groove back?
- Rotation, rotation, rotation - Speaking of player selection, Arsenal have another packed slate ahead of them. Between Saturday and the next international break in mid-November, Arsenal have five matches over the next two weeks. This means the Gunners will play a match almost every 4 days, including an EFL showdown and the home leg against Sevilla in the Champions League, all bookended by home matches against two of the Premier League’s worst sides with an away trip to Newcastle in the middle. Tired legs and knocks are certain, and the roster will need to be tested as necessary as the season marches on.
- On paper vs On the pitch - Last season, there were two clubs Arsenal did not register at least one win against - eventual 1st place champions Manchester City, and last placed Southampton. Despite being the better team by a country mile on paper, the Gunners played down to Soton both times and couldn’t put the matches against them away when it mattered, ultimately being daggers in the Gunners’ title aspirations. At the risk of sounding cocky, Arsenal need to learn from those matches and mercilessly pummel the Blades on Saturday. The visitors have given up the most goals in the league and are joint-second for least goals scored. They are among a trio of promoted teams that look all but destined to go right back down. They can’t repeat last season’s mistakes and expect to improve. Go for the throat, please and thank you.
- Jesus take the wheel - Gabriel Jesus played his best match of the season on Tuesday, putting in a relentless Man of the Match performance in Spain with an assist and a beauty of a goal. His only blemish on the night was the thigh injury he appeared to sustain in the second half that necessitated a sub. Arteta has been notoriously unreliable with injury rumors, so after he announced that they would be assessing Jesus’s leg ahead of Saturday, who knows what is true? Arsenal should be able to win regardless of his availability, but it’d be a hell of a lot nicer if he was able to play and keep his momentum going.
- Home, sweet home - The Emirates has been a different place since last season. Long gone are the derisory chants about it being a library. The fans are louder, prouder, and the opposition has found success harder and harder to come by at the Gunners’ home turf. The fans have been difference makers and have willed the team to some incredible results. It’s been nearly a month since Arsenal were last at home. Here’s hoping the fans keep that same intensity even when it’s not the likes of City or United we are facing.
The Gunners are well within touching distance of the league’s top spot. Saturday is as good of chance to get a resounding win, build a proper goal difference, and get back to their best. With a few fortunate results and a win of their own, they could see themselves on top be the end of the weekend.
WHAT: Arsenal vs Sheffield United
WHEN: Saturday, October 28th, 10:00am EST/7:00am PST/3:00pm GMT
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
HOW TO WATCH: Broadcast live on the USA Network. Streaming on NBCSports.com
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