Arsenal face Crystal Palace on Saturday, relatively free from the constraints of rotation affecting the last few selections.
Over the festive period, Arsenal had a game every few days. The taxing schedule forced Mikel Arteta into some decisions like resting Bukayo Saka, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Lucas Torreira, dropping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after an illness, and so on.
The good news is that the schedule is a lot clearer from now until the Europa League returns in mid-February. Arsenal play six games in 37 days, which is only one every six days on average.
That starts with Crystal Palace on Saturday, after a five-day break, and Arsenal don’t play again until the following Saturday at home to Sheffield United. We could start to see Mikel Arteta trying to settle on his best starting lineup now.
Let’s have a look at our Arsenal predicted lineup for the Crystal Palace clash.
Emi Martinez did well on Monday, just as Bernd Leno did against Manchester United. It’s good to see them both back building their clean sheet tallies.
Arguably, that’s more to do with the improvement of the rest of the team. The two goalkeepers mostly did a good job even when Arsenal’s performances were terrible. It’s hard to see Leno losing his spot in the league, at least for now.
The one pick I think Arteta might make for fitness reasons is Bukayo Saka over Sead Kolasinac. Kolasinac started last Wednesday and on Monday, after returning from injury. Saka can start this one.
In central defence, David Luiz and Sokratis Papasthopoulos will reprise their roles from the Manchester United game. Rob Holding still isn’t in full flow, Shkodran Mustafi and Konstantinos Mavropanos are edging towards exits and Calum Chambers is out.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles will start at right-back. He’s the only option in Hector Bellerin’s absence if Sokratis plays centrally.
Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira are still Arsenal’s best sitting midfield partnership, so they’ll both start. Mesut Özil should feature ahead of them as usual. Dani Ceballos will have to wait for his return to the pitch.
Emile Smith Rowe is ready for a loan to Huddersfield Town, whilst Joe Willock and Matteo Guendouzi will likely make the bench.
After his illness keeping him out of the squad against Leeds, Aubameyang should return to start. Alexandre Lacazette seems like an important part of Arteta’s vision, so expect him to make the lineup too.
The right-wing spot could go to Nicolas Pepe or Reiss Nelson. Both are in good form, but the former is surely the more likely to start at the moment.
Gabriel Martinelli is also back in contention, to complicate things. It’s hard to see him immediately displacing both Pepe and Nelson on current form, especially since he was playing on the left more often anyway.
If anything, the Brazilian’s return is just as likely to lead to Lacazette or Aubameyang dropping out with the other leading the line. For now, we expect him to start on the bench.