Arsenal face Sheffield United in their FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday, after a midweek Premier League win over Southampton.
Arsenal got their first win of the restart on Thursday, but they need to build on it quickly with another this weekend. The FA Cup is pretty much the last thing they have to play for this season, so it would be a shame to exit at the quarter-final stage.
At the moment, Mikel Arteta appears to be lining up his side in a 4-3-3 formation which acts more 3-4-3 in possession. Hector Bellerin pushes up on the right, whilst Kieran Tierney drops back into a three on the left.
It remains to be seen whether the head coach sticks with that for the upcoming match, but it’s all we have to go on right now. Let’s have a look at our predicted lineup for the Sheffield United clash.
For once, there are no guarantees who starts in goal. Emi Martinez is Arsenal’s number one in Bernd Leno’s absence, but the Gunners usually play their backup keeper in the FA Cup games. Does that mean Matt Macey gets a start?
I’m going to guess the answer is ‘no’. Arsenal can’t really afford to take risks at this stage of the season, in any competition. Choosing to start your third-choice goalkeeper in a quarter-final after zero senior appearances all season is definitely a risk.
That’s right, David Luiz is back, contain your excitement. After sorting his contract situation and serving his suspension, the centre-back will probably come back into the side purely to give Rob Holding a break.
Sokratis is also available again. With Hector Bellerin needing a break and Cedric Soares only back after this game, the Greek international will probably start at right-back.
Shkodran Mustafi probably has to keep his spot in central defence, purely due to the lack of alternatives. After Kieran Tierney was cramping up from exhaustion on Thursday, Sead Kolasinac probably comes in at left-back.
It’s hard to see Granit Xhaka missing out if he’s available. He tends to need less rest than most, and he’s just so important to the team right now.
Now, in the formation Arteta played against Southampton, you’d expect the right-back to push up and play as a wing-back, but with Sokratis starting in that role, it seems unlikely. Instead, I’d expect the formation to flip, with Kolasinac pushing up.
This means Arsenal will need their right-central-midfielder to be someone comfortable with slotting into a right-midfield role. It’s hard to think of anyone better suited to that specific task than Ainsley Maitland-Niles. So he’s my second pick.
After that, Joe Willock probably deserves a start after his goal in midweek and strong FA Cup performances up to this stage.
I’m expecting some changes here. After Eddie Nketiah’s committed performance in midweek, he can drop to the bench with Alexandre Lacazette starting in his place. Reiss Nelson hasn’t had a start since the restart and performed excellently in his last two FA Cup matches, so he’ll probably come in as well.
On the left, I probably would’ve predicted Gabriel Martinelli for a start before his injury. Unfortunately, his absence means it’s a toss-up between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka.
The pair have a combined three minutes of rest time between them in the last three games, so there’s no obvious choice here. Aubameyang will probably start purely on experience and his current need to get a goal.