The international break is over and the Arsenal u23s are back in action against Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, as they push for top spot in the league.
Arsenal are coming off the back of a pair of 2-2 draws, but they’re still level on points with league-leaders Chelsea after wins in their first two games.
With just one goal difference to make up on their London rivals, the Gunners will be looking for a big win on Saturday if possible.
Leicester’s form has been more variable so far, with a respectable draw against Everton with 10 men followed by two disappointing results against Blackburn (1-1) and Brighton (0-3). They did manage to get their first win on the board against Wolves before the international break though.
Tickets are still available to attend the match at the Emirates, until 10am on Saturday morning. It’s possible there will also be a stream on Arsenal Player, but there wasn’t for the last game at the Emirates, so it’s safer to attend in person.
Let’s have a look at our predicted team for the match.
Predicted Lineup (4-2-2-2)
After making a good start to the season, James Hillson dropped to the bench for the last couple of games to give Karl Hein a chance.
Unfortunately, Hein didn’t look comfortable in those appearances, and Hillson has since been named in the Europa League squad ahead of Hein, suggesting the coaches now see him as the u23s’ number one. That’s at least until Arthur Okonkwo returns from injury.
Hillson should start this one with Hein on the bench.
Zech Medley and Mark McGuinness still don’t appear to be back from injury, whilst Rob Holding has left the u23s to rejoin the first team.
Harry Clarke will continue his run in the team at centre-back, likely alongside Joseph Olowu, though Tobi Omole is also an option.
Tolaji Bola has joined the growing injury list for the Gunners, meaning Mazeed Ogungbo will probably have to fill in at left-back. Zak Swanson should be available on the right of the defence, but if he isn’t then Olowu will move out to the right with Omole in the middle.
Like Holding, Smith Rowe has now returned to first-team training, so it’s unlikely he plays this one. Robbie Burton returns from a couple of appearances for the Wales u21s and is sure to start, with Jordan McEneff the most likely to join him in midfield.
Miguel Azeez is pushing for more u23 matches, but he isn’t quite first in the pecking order just yet. James Olayinka is another struggling with injury.
Nathan Tormey and Trae Coyle are the only likely options here. Bukayo Saka will probably be saved for the first team, as will Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe.
Tyreece John-Jules scored a fantastic backheel flick in the last game at the Emirates, whilst Folarin Balogun got a goal and an assist in the last 20 minutes of Arsenal’s last game. It’s hard to drop either of them right now, so they’ll probably start together.
The only concern is whether Balogun is actually going to be fit, after pulling out of England u19 duty with injury.
If he misses out, that could change the whole setup of the team, with Azeez the most likely to come into the team in midfield and Arsenal to switch to a 4-3-3. There aren’t many academy strikers who could step into Balogun’s role, particularly with Sam Greenwood injured.
Hillson; Swanson, Olowu, Clarke, Ogungbo; Burton, McEneff; Tormey, Coyle; Balogun, John-Jules.