August 18, 2022

Alexandre Lacazette could be rewarded for his fine performance with a start, while Bukayo Saka is set to be ruled out for the Aston Villa clash on Friday.

Mikel Arteta will not make any serious changes to the side that has underperformed in the last two games. The clash against Crystal Palace highlighted some deficiencies in midfield, although the Arsenal manager might look to retain the shape and style when his team takes on Aston Villa at the Emirates.

With Granit Xhaka absent, the Arsenal midfield is desperate to find form and shape. Thomas Partey was overburdened to hold the central area on his own, with a lack of support from either Martin Odegaard or Emile Smith Rowe.

Arteta could use Albert Sambi Lokonga and Partey in a midfield double pivot, which would force him to take one prime attacker off the lineup. The Arsenal manager is inclined to tinker with his system in the absence of Xhaka, meaning he might stick with a midfield three of the Partey, Odegaard and Smith Rowe.

During his pre-match press conference, Arteta mentioned that a few players have been facing issues with fitness, although most are understandably available for the Aston Villa game. He said, “We have a training session today, we had two or three players who finished the game [against Crystal Palace] with some issues, and we had to assess them today.”

However, without categorically ruling Bukayo Saka out of the game, Arteta mentioned the England international has not trained since that unfortunate James McArthur kick. The Arsenal boss continued, “He hasn’t trained yet, so again we have to assess him today and see how he is.”

If Saka has not trained this week, Arteta might not risk playing him against Villa. The youngster’s absence could keep Nicolas Pepe in the lineup, despite his terrible display against Palace on Monday. Gabriel Martinelli is an option after impressing off the bench with his direct approach.

The Brazilian’s progress has somewhat halted lately, but the Arsenal manager is slowly inclined to give him chances, although the Aston Villa game might not be the platform. He might still be a great option off the bench if needed.

Like Martinelli, Alexandre Lacazette was a bright spot on Monday, and might have earned a deserved place in the lineup. The Frenchman scored a crucial equaliser right at the death, and for his experience, Arteta might start him in the central striker’s role. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might be moved to the left side to accommodate Lacazette.

In defence, Arteta is set to retain the same personnel, with Aaron Ramsdale in goal. Kieran Tierney was reportedly one of the fitness concerns, although the Arsenal boss has given no indication this could be the case.

Predicted Arsenal XI: Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Odegaard, Partey, Smith-Rowe; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang

 

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