Arsenal v SU: Time to Freshen Things Up With Two Hungry Young Gunners

Our game v Sheffield United falls in the middle of the two Europa League legs and I have not got much of a clue what team Arteta will select and how much priority he will give to it. We need a win of course as we can still finish strongly in the league with a good run from today till the last game of the season, but with a number of key injuries and injury-doubts it may be hard to achieve it, even against the lowly Blades. However, as Eris said yesterday, psychology is important too and we need to get back to winning ways.

The big challenge for Arteta is to put up a team today that is not just good on paper but actually gels well and gets the job done. We need intensity, high tempo and yet calm at the back. Easier said than done. Our biggest problem is getting the attack to work as a unit, as is reflected in the poor tally of goals Arsenal have scored in the league (although improving recently). The chemistry between the very talented bunch of Auba, Laca, Pepe and Willian is very poor; for some reason they just do not work together. With Martin and Emile being injury doubts, I would imagine that at least three of these experienced players will start today. We will need a bit of youthful zest and hunger, and hopefully Saka can bring this. But maybe we need more and is this the time for Arteta to start Martinelli… or even Azeez. Freshen things up a bit with the aim to keep a number of players fresh and on their toes for Thursday’s return game against Slavia Prague.

Anyway, I don’t think there is much more to say about our game tonight, so here is the preferred lineup:

I think we need to spare one of our full backs, so Chambers should start. Partey needs a break and we need him to be fresh and focussed on Thursday, so a start for Elneny (who is much better when started in a game rather than being thrown in at the end) would seem right. Martinelli has been chomping at the bit for a while so should start and yes I would play Azeez in the hole today. Laca loves working with these sort of players but I am happy for Auba to be started as CF instead: either will do. After sixty minutes the likes of Auba and Pepe can come on to finish the game off for us. All to play for – COYRRGs!


30 thoughts on “Arsenal v SU: Time to Freshen Things Up With Two Hungry Young Gunners

  • Kev’s comment at the end of the last comment:

    No Smith Rowe at Bramhall Lane due to a sprained ankle and probably to save him for Prague.

    No Aubameyang at Bramhall Lane due to Flu and probably to save him for Prague.
    I’m sure I also read a couple of days ago that Saka was doubtful for Sheffield.
    No Odegaard at Bramhall Lane due to his ankle injury and to hope that he’ll recover in time for Prague.

    So, predicting the starting XI today is going to be interesting, Lacazette, Pepe and Willian up front?
    Of maybe (hopefully) Lacazette, Martinelli and Pepe or Willian up front?

    Arsenal, so I read recently, haven’t won at Bramhall Lane since 1993, which surprised me but then the Blades aren’t always in the Premier League.

    I suspect that most pundits are expecting another poor Arsenal performance.

    Let’s see…

  • Good shout for Martinelli and Azeez, TA. But based on this season’s U23 line-ups I see Azeez more in the CM role (Cottrell and recently Coyle play in the AM role while Azeez and Cirjan share the available CM position next to Akinola).

    So if we stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation (which I don’t insist on at all) my preferred line-up would be:

    But I probably would rather revert to the 4-3-3 / 4-1-4-1 formation:

    However it is more likely that Azeez would come from the bench as a 70-minute substitute, possibly along with Lopez, who could relieve Soares not to go to Prague with 95 minutes of competitive PL-football in his legs.

  • Thanks PB,

    Good lineups and consideration. I see Azeez as an attacking midfielder so I am happy to play him a bit higher, but good arguments for playing him deeper. I definitely don’t want to break up the two deeper midfielders plan and Xhaka/Elneny (or Partey) is a must for me. Xhaka as a lone DM… not his role I think.

  • I see Miguel Azeez in more of a Dele Alli role but I can’t see him starting anyway even if that would be my preference.

    I don’t know why Arteta doesn’t go three at the back, then full back isn’t such an issue, give Gabriel a break and go with Mari, Holding and Chambers with Bellerin and Soares as wing backs.

    Up front it has to be Lacazette, Pepe and Martinelli, give Saka a break.

    Midfield Xhaka starts, he always starts and maybe Ceballos alongside him, rest Partey.

    Sheffield United will be aerial and physical, so be prepared for a battle…

    I keep on hearing a rumour about Leno wanting to leave?
    Not sure if it’s Twitter rubbish or not…

  • Your usual upbeat well thought out and well written posts Total – thank you.

    It’s important that this game is a confidence booster.

    I could not imagine anything more deflating than losing to last place Sheffield a team that has won only 4 games all season and scored a sad 17 goals. So even with our sub par performances we should be far too much for Sheffield to handle.

    I would hope that with the amount of purported injuries that we can give a few youngsters a run out – but to underestimate Sheffield could be perilous.

    It’s a 2:00pm kick off here which is a very strange time – I cannot remember any other game with that kick off time.

  • Kev,

    When I watch Martinez playing for Aston Villa he looks vibrant and happy on the other hand Leno seems downhearted – I wonder if we made the right choice?

  • I like your shout for three at the back, Kev. It sort of makes sense right now and I would be tempted to play Saka and Soares on the wings then. But no Ceballos in midfield for me today.

  • Thank you, GN5, that is nice. Yeah losing today would be dire and I hope the team put in a spirited performance.

    That is weird time for you, and so is 7pm here.

  • TA, I could have sworn I posted my twopence, right after you re-posted Kev’s from the last thread.

    Oh well. Hard to regurgitate it all but it went something like, why not throw on the youngsters in the front 4 (Martinelli, Saka, Nelson -in the hole-, Balogun/Nketiah). With Luis still out, a back 5 of Ryan, Bellerin, Chambers, Mari and Cedric. Elneny and Xhaka in midfield. Willian, Pepe and Ceballos to come on later.

    The lads have nothing to lose and more to prove; plus, we don’t need the distraction that the game on Thursday could cause some of those to play that game.

  • Cheers Eris, I usually don’t subscribe to the fallacy of ‘just use’ youth players, but for today’s game it makes sense. I like your lineup a lot.

  • TA finally starting to think like me in resting Partey for europa. I’ve been calling for that for him, Tierney, even Xhaka the past few weeks they’ve been overplayed, including around internationals where Kieran an s Xhaka get overused, Usually Saka too, including in meaningless games. These guys have been obviously fatigued at times.
    I also like kevs idea for 3 CBs, could’ve done that many times when Tierney has been out and it just seemed Arteta wanted us to get used to the new system once we got Partey, even though he missed a lot of games right after arriving.
    I don’t understand his hesitation to vary the system because he does lots of in game adjustments.

    I was hoping the Azeez I’ve been hearing about can be a center mid, because we need that, or at least a 10/8 capable player.

  • GN5, I was as disappointed that we sold Martinez as I was elated when we re-signed Saka and Aubameyang last summer. That decision is going to haunt us for a long long time I’m afraid…

  • Confirmed team sheets:

    Leno, Chambers, Holding, Mari, Saka, Ceballos, Xhaka, Partey, Pepe, Lacazette, Martinelli

    Subs: Bellerin, Gabriel, Willian, Cedric, Nelson, Elneny, Nketiah, Ryan, Azeez

    Sheffield United
    Ramsdale, Egan, Ampadu, Stevens, Baldock, Fleck, Lundstram, Norwood, Osborn, Burke, McGoldrick

    Subs: McBurnie, Mousset, Lowe, Jagielka, Foderingham, Bogle, Brewster, Bryan, Ndiaye

  • That team looks good enough to win and we really really need a win because I’m becoming increasingly dismayed at some of the garbage I’m reading on other blogs from so called Arsenal fans.

  • As expected, Arteta has put out the semblance of the team that will play on Thursday. But, happy to see Martinelli on (hopefully, not due to pressure on the manager); trust him to make things happen.

    Not sure Saka needed to be at left back but that just says we are protecting Cedric for Thursday. Again, Thomas and Xhaka have to be careful not to pick up niggles here. We need everyone fit now.

    I hope the players are able to focus on today before Thursday; OGAAT is what it should be.

  • Aggressive line up. I would’ve preferred resting Saka and Partey. Btw, I loved the strength, pace and confidence Pepe showed on his goal Thursday. Our shooters were choking all day until he came in. He is earning playing time.

  • I am still trying to come to terms with our formation and I guess, so are the hosts. We deserve to be more than just one goal up, if we stayed composed at the right times.
    It would seem it is at times, a back 3 of Mari Holding and Xhaka, with Ceballos and Chambers as wing backs. At other times, it will be Chambers and Xhaka at full back and Holding and Mari as CBs, Partey, Saka and Ceballos rotating roles in midfield, with Xhaka joining in at times. Then, it is Saka on the right and afterwards, it is Pepe with Saka in the hole.

    Arteta knows Slavia Prague would be watching too and is doing his best to get them confused.

  • It certainly is intriguing, Eris.

    Great goal. Need to get Pepe and Martinelli more involved and the pressure will become too much. Loving Laca in this half.

  • Again Pepe uses his strength to make that goal happen. He’s producing for us.

  • That truly was an aggressive set-up by Arteta. As soon as I saw Saka overloading on the right side, I knew Xhaka would be covering LB. Not even LWB, but really fullback. I kept thinking that this lineup against this opponent should yield more than a couple goals, otherwise it would be disappointing to me. In the end we got there, but should have created more chances in the first half.

    Someday, when Xhaka is no longer playing for us, we are going to miss his great long passes sprayed all over the pitch, and constant switching of play. He’s the best at it.

  • While it can be misleading coming to conclusion after playing with the league’s weakest team, but the boys played really well and convincing.
    In my understanding in defense we played 4-2-3-1 (or even 4-2-4 as Lacazette came back so deep) with Xhaka playing LB, and in attack we played 3-5-2 with a Chambers-Holding-Mari defense, a Xhaka-Ceballos-Partey sentral midfield supported by Saka and Pepe (though Saka wandered often to middle and the right too) and a Martinelli-Lacazette duo.

    I was really satisfied with Martinelli, Ceballos and Pepe, all 3 of them took the rare occasion of a starting opportunity to make the most out of it. Lacazette was great, but he is our best-in-form player probably, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. I’m also impressed by Arteta for being unpredictable and cooking up this formation fluidity, but I’m still not fan of his late and uninspiring substitutions.

    I hope that Saka’s injury is nothing serious, but even if he cannot play against Slavia, the Auba/Martinelli/Pepe/ESR group should provide enough of a selection head-ache for Arteta when finding out who should support Lacazette up front, not to mention Odegaard, who is likely to start the team sheet if available.

  • Agree with Jnyc, our 9 key passes could/should have been doubled and the 55% ball possession could/should have been increased if the boys had some urgency to the game; but maybe for keeping the clean sheet, or to save some energy to the EL quarter final they seemed to be OK with the medium intensity, the limited pressing and a 3-goal win.

  • That result is just what the doctor ordered towards that Thursday date. Hopefully, Saka and Martinelli injuries aren’t as bad as they looked.

    I thought we were fluid and controlled the game well. Partey was immense and that turn and pass for Laca’s second goal was just sublime and shows what he brings: confidence on the ball and under pressure. Which other player could be trusted with that pass, with an opponent so close?
    It will be tough and tense in Prague, but this performance (more than the result) gives me assurance we want to win it.

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