Here we go again. Back at Premier Leauge, against another London rival and another leading club. Chelsea have the second best attack in the league with 29 goals and are tied for the third best defense with only 14 goals allowed. Scroll down and we find Arsenal, 15th place, 12 goals scored and 18 allowed. Mikel Arteta desperately needs to change the narrative and for someone, or perhaps more precisely several people, to step forward and take charge of this squad.
From official news from the club team, it seems safe to expect Aubameyang and Martinelli to be removed from the team, Thomas Partey continues his rehabilitation and Granit Xhaka was released once again to wreak havoc or surprise on Saturday. The Gunners’ last victory outside the Europa League was on 1 November, 1-0 over Manchester United. That result was a surprise, but a victory on Saturday would not only be a big shock, but maybe (we can dream, right?) The start of a turnaround.
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Dani Ceballos
- Joe Willock
- Reiss Nelson
- Emile Smith Rowe
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles
- Shkodran Mustafi
- Alex Runarsson (please don’t get hurt Leno)
- Abandoned: Cedric Soares, Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac, Pablo Mari
- Out: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (calf), Thomas Partey (thigh injury), Gabriel Martinelli (right shin)
- With Aubameyang out, Bukayo Saka can enter the attacking role on the left, and then Pepe will probably have another chance over Willian. The best of both options and Reiss Nelson. And where exactly is Reiss Nelson? He lost the entire League Cup squad and is not yet on the injury report. I gave him a spot on the expanded bench one last time before we started to assume that he and Arteta clearly had a fight.
- At the top, Nketiah starts, leaving Lacazette for the second half. Perhaps, if Nelson is out of the team on Saturday, Folarin Balogun will consider that Auba and Martinelli will not be available.
- In midfield, after being left out of the last three matches, Granit Xhaka is ready to return. Considering Chelsea’s attack, I can see Arteta starting Xhaka and Elneny to help protect the line of defense, which will allow Tierney and Bellerin to do well to advance the attack more often. It’s a conservative formation, which is par with Arteta lately, and considering Arsenal’s recent record and Chelsea’s firepower, it’s probably a safe bet.
- The Gunners need a defense of three again, but luckily Arteta has his best options available – Gabriel, Luiz and Holding. We didn’t see Mari at the weekend, but it’s hard to imagine that he went up the chart deep enough to have been saved for this game.
- The bank has many options between Lacazette, Willock, Maitland-Niles, Smith Rowe and Nelson (or Balogun). So, what is your confidence (%) that Gunners will win in the Emirates?
How to watch
Saturday (12/26) at 12:30 pm ET / 9:30 am PT on NBC.