Arsenal face Premier League champions Liverpool with their chances of making the Europa League hanging by a thread on Wednesday.
As depressing as that statement is, it’s the reality for Arsenal at the moment. After a couple of slip-ups against Leicester City and Spurs, there’s no chance of Champions League qualification anymore, and they’re relying on help for the Europa League.
As much as Arsenal need a result in this one – and they do – there’s also a big game against Manchester City coming up a few days later. That semi-final is in the last competition the Gunners can actually win this season, and offers another route to European football.
So whilst I’m still expecting Arteta to mostly stick with his best team, he’ll probably also make a couple of changes. Whether that’s to rest players or just to switch things up from Sunday. Let’s have a look at our predicted lineup for the match.
No changes here, as Emi Martinez will start with Matt Macey on the bench. Bernd Leno should return to full training before the end of the season.
Arsenal need to make a change in the back three after Sunday. Sead Kolasinac isn’t a centre-back, and David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi aren’t nearly consistent enough to cover over the cracks.
I’m still expecting Luiz and Mustafi to start, mainly due to the lack of alternatives performing well. Arteta also remains keen to plan a left-footed centre-back on the left, so Kieran Tierney can drop into the back three. He did it before against Manchester City.
Rob Holding and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are available as alternatives for any of the three positions, but neither can get on the pitch right now.
Midfield and Wing-Backs
Tierney moving into the back three leaves a space on the left for Bukayo Saka. He played so well in the position earlier in the season, so it’s hardly a major downgrade from Tierney, whilst Tierney is a major upgrade from Kolasinac.
Hector Bellerin started the last couple of games, so he can rest ahead of the City clash with Cedric Soares coming into the team.
In central midfield, I’m expecting Arteta to start with his usual pair of Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos but bring one or both off as early as possible – assuming the result isn’t still hanging in the balance. I just can’t see him dropping either.
The front three pretty much picks itself at this point in my prediction. With Eddie Nketiah missing through suspension, Gabriel Martinelli out with injury and Saka at wing-back, Reiss Nelson is the only alternative to the same front three that started against Spurs.
I do think Nelson will get starts before the end of the season, but this isn’t really the best game for it. So Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe will keep their places.