Arsenal face Aston Villa in the Premier League on Tuesday, looking to stay in the race for a Europa League qualification spot.
Despite consecutive wins over Liverpool and Manchester City, Arsenal still have a lot of work to do to qualify for European competition next season.
The Champions League is gone, but there are two routes back into the Europa League. The first is through the Premier League. Though Arsenal need some help from other teams, they absolutely have to beat Aston Villa and Watford to have any realistic chance.
The second is through the FA Cup, winning the final against Chelsea. But we shouldn’t even consider that option until it’s the only one available. We saw what happened last year.
So I’m expecting Arteta to go strong against Aston Villa. With two games this week and then a week-long break before the third, he’ll probably only rest players in the few cases where he pretty much has to. Let’s have a look at our predicted lineup for the match.
Emi Martinez will remain in goal. Bernd Leno is progressing well, joining outside running drills and ball work. Hopefully, we’ll see him make a return to the squad before the end of the season.
Shkodran Mustafi is out, which breaks up the usual trio at the back. Kieran Tierney and David Luiz can and probably will start, with Rob Holding the most likely to join them. Holding played that position in the back three against Liverpool, after all.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos is also available, as is Sead Kolasinac for the position on the left of the three. But neither look particularly likely to start.
Midfield and Wing-Backs
Cedric is back available, after his ineligibility for the FA Cup game against Manchester City. He’s fresh and likely to start this one over Hector Bellerin, who had to play 90, 84 and 90 minutes in three of the last four games.
Bukayo Saka should come in on the left for Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Maitland-Niles did well in his role shutting down Manchester City’s forwards, but this game is likely to be more about creating goals, and Saka is a better fit for that. Tierney is in the back three, of course.
I can’t see Arteta dropping either of Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos. The pair are working really well together, and he can always sub one or both of them off if Arsenal can get into the lead.
Lucas Torreira doesn’t seem like the best midfielder to start against relegation candidates. He’d have a better impact coming on later to try and see out a win. As would Joe Willock. Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Özil are still seemingly not in contention.
As he chases the Premier League Golden Boot, sitting three goals behind Jamie Vardy, Aubameyang will surely start. He worked hard and bagged a brace at the weekend against Manchester City, but Arsenal can’t ease off in their matches this week.
That said, Arsenal do have the option to rest Alexandre Lacazette, with Eddie Nketiah back. That one seems more likely.
Nicolas Pepe should start after his assist at the weekend. Reiss Nelson is available if Arteta does want to rotate here, but I’m not expecting him to.