Arsenal are in a bad, bad place right now. No point in denying it. Nothing is going right for them. Losing games, players suspended, star players hurt — Arteta has a sinking ship on his hands and it’s one he has played a role in sinking.
I won’t put it all on his shoulders. There is an immense amount of burden that should be shouldered by the players and the board alike, but it’s his job to get the best out of this crudely put together side, riddled with weak links, and he is floundering. 15th place, for a side as poor like this, is beneath the what they should be producing.
A change is needed. Arsenal are on pace for roughly 33 goals and 42 points for the season. That is terrrrrrrrrrrrrrible. Youth players? Hungry players? New players? Arteta needs something, and Arsenal fans are holding their breath — or maybe have stopped holding their breath at this point — to see a serious dedication to change. Will today be the day?
Before we get into the lineup, let’s look at Team News.
Right calf. Sustained a slight calf strain in training last week. Auba is working hard with our medical team in order to regain full fitness as soon as possible. Has now joined outside drills and will continue to be assessed regarding availability ahead of Saturday.
Right shin. Sustained heavy impact and bruising to right shin during our match against Manchester City on Tuesday. Gabi is recovering well and we hope he will be able to participate in full training ahead of Saturday.
Left thigh. Sustained a thigh strain during Tottenham Hotspur (a) on December 6. Thomas is currently unavailable, but is progressing well to now working outside on close ball work, together with the continued focus on his overall fitness rehabilitation.
Available after serving a three-match suspension.
Two notes before we get started:
- This lineup is under the assumption that Partey and Aubameyang are both out with injuries
- This flies in the face of everything I have said Arteta needs to do — balance youth and hunger with veteran experience and quality. Why? Because I have seen almost no signs from Arteta that he has acknowledged this notion, outside of an occasional verbal response.
With that said, here is how I think we could see Arteta line up Arsenal tomorrow.
A 3-4-3 with Leno in net. A continued back three of Tierney, Gabriel and Holding. All seemingly pretty standard. Very little has changed in back lately. Possibly we see Luiz given it’s Chelsea, but Arteta has been favoring Holding as the RCB lately.
The midfield is where we get a little more interesting. Saka and AMN maintain their spots as wingbacks. AMN has proven himself to be a valuable wingback and should continue to be given the start if a wingback is desired. The central pivot, however, sees changes and I think people have been dreading it.
Xhaka was suspended for 3 matches after a straight red card, which saw Elneny and Ceballos get three straight starts as partners. They. Were. Awful. It has been three straight games where there may be individual moments of decent play, but as a unit Arsenal have essentially had no midfield presence. Either overrun, sat too deep, or imbalanced — the duo has not worked. If Partey is going to be out once more, I fear the worst. Xhaka and someone will be given a go. I selected Elneny but it could also be Ceballos. Don’t believe it will be Willock nor ESR.
Up top I have put the very exciting Martinelli on the left, Lacazette back in the center, and Willian on the right. Why Willian? Because it’s always Willian, it’s Chelsea, Pepe has only been okay, Willian had an okay second half… blah blah blah. Rattle of a few more poor reasons to shove Willian in the lineup. I hate it. I would prefer Pepe or Reiss Nelson, but I doubt it. Expecting Willian.
Like the Manchester City match, this one will be a struggle. Arsenal will need to deal with a rapid attack for large chunks of the match, and they have not showed they are up for it all the often. The closest they maybe came was when they were down to 10-men versus Leeds, but that is an entirely different situation.
Expect Arsenal to sit in, play compact, and try to break out quickly through Saka and Martinelli, while feeding the ball into the feet of Lacazette or Willian in deeper roles to link things. If Arsenal come out rampant, set a tone, and maintain it for larger stretches than they have so far this season, MAYBE they are in with a shout. Otherwise, I expect the defense to have a fairly long day ahead of them as the midfield struggles to keep up.
1-3 Chelsea but I want more than anything to be wrong.