Arsenal travel to Brighton on Saturday, hoping to put the memories of their 3-0 defeat to Manchester City behind them with a win.
The games will start coming thick and fast from now on, so just three days after Arsenal’s trip to Manchester, they’re travelling down to Brighton.
The injury problems are already racking up, with Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari joining Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Calum Chambers and Lucas Torreira on the list of unavailable players for the match. Plus, David Luiz will miss out through a two-game suspension.
Let’s have a look at our predicted Arsenal lineup for the Brighton match.
Bernd Leno definitely made a good case for himself continuing as Arsenal’s number one with his first game back against City. Despite the 3-0 scoreline, he made nine good saves to keep it from getting worse.
Arsenal now only have two fit and available senior centre-backs: Rob Holding and Shkodran Mustafi. They have other options, like playing Kieran Tierney centrally or Ainsley Maitland-Niles, or promoting youth players. But we predict Holding and Mustafi to start.
Kieran Tierney should make the lineup on the left, with Hector Bellerin on the right. If Tierney does start at centre-back, Sead Kolasinac should feature on the left.
Bukayo Saka did so on Wednesday, but that was only because the injuries limited Arsenal making further substitutions. In normal circumstances, Saka is more likely to start or make the bench as a winger.
Again, there are some limits on Arteta’s options here, with Xhaka and Torreira out. Dani Ceballos, Matteo Guendouzi and Joe Willock played most of the City match, and they’re the most likely to start again on Saturday.
There’s also a chance Ainsley Maitland-Niles comes in for one of them. He still hasn’t made a single start in midfield under Arteta, but he’s getting closer.
Mesut Özil is also an option, but it was telling Arteta said in his pre-match press conference: “The moment I see that he is ready again to do that (play every game), I will treat him like anybody else.” It certainly sounds like Arteta doesn’t think Özil is ready yet.
The front three is much harder to call. Eddie Nketiah played well against Manchester City, but I get the feeling Alexandre Lacazette might start this one instead.
With a few good centre-forward options at Arteta’s disposal, he may as well rotate between them, and Nketiah can have a big impact at the end of games.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang surely has to start. There are alternatives on the left, notably Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. But you don’t drop your leading scorer until he really needs a rest.
I’m predicting a return for Nicolas Pepe on the right. Arsenal looked much better in the half he played against Brighton in December than the half he missed. Reiss Nelson is also available though, as is Saka after starting there on Saturday. As I said, it’s a tough call.