Stakes + Predicted Lineup

Looking ahead to Arsenal’s Europa League matchup with PSV Eindhoven.

In a results driven business, no one has a lot of leg to stand on if they intend to complain about much of what Arsenal are doing. Losing one game dating back to 8 July when they played their first real preseason friendly against FC Nürnberg is no small feat. Obviously preseason friendlies count for very little besides confidence and chemistry, but that gives them 17 wins, 0 draws, and 1 loss this season.

However, Arsenal fans will be inherently aware of the fact that Arsenal’s last two performances have stood out for some of the wrong reasons. They have resulted in wins, but the level of play has been noticeably lower than the usual level this team has proven themselves capable of.

PSV Eindhoven come to the Emirates and there is an interesting mixture of things on the line. First and foremost, Arsenal have the ability to put themselves five points ahead of Eindhoven in the group and nearly clinch their way forward as group winners. PSV Eindhoven are no pushovers, which means it won’t be an easy win — although Arsenal will still expect themselves to get the result — and that offers Arsenal a real opportunity to re-find their form against a quality opponent.

Beating quality teams, and with these stakes Arteta is likely to really push for a win, should mean playing a strong side. Arteta has already shown us his willingness to cautiously balance his rotations with strong foundations and a few XI regulars. So far, it seems Arteta has an affinity for two lineups:

  1. The first saw Martinelli, Xhaka, Gabriel and a strong left back to provide a mostly complete and “regular” left side of the pitch
  2. The second was a flipped side that included Saka, Ødegaard, White, and Saliba for a near complete right side of the pitch

Obviously this is by design and does seem to offer a balance of stability and fresh legs.

In the past I have written about the Europa League seemingly being used as a testing ground for tactical variations and player profile compatibility — most notably Ødegaard and Vieira as a pairing — while ensuring players stay sharp. While many fans have seemingly been irritated with Arsenal’s strong lineups and strong subs that often see more Premier League regulars brought into the game, it seems the sport science world is shifting in how it handles elite athletes recovery and maintenance. Arsenal have done a good job of limiting most these regulars to 60 minutes and rotate in other starters for the final 30.

Given the importance of this match and the precedent these past games have seemingly set, I think we can expect much of the same.

Predicted Lineup

This wold be a return toward the first lineup Arsenal played in the Europa League. It would also mean that I expect subs to be:

  • Ødegaard
  • Saka
  • Jesus
  • Nelson
  • one remaining sub up for grabs, perhaps Zinchenko if nearing health

It’s worth noting that Arteta was a little coy in his interview yesterday when asked about Martinelli and Zinchenko saying, “no they are not ruled out, but we will see tomorrow what we decide”.

This probably makes Zinchenko unlikely to make a return yet, but it also could call into question Martinelli’s fitness. If he is not able to go, it will be interesting to see if Arteta opts to simply plug Reiss Nelson into the side of flip the lineup completely and showcase the same side we saw against Bodø/Glimt given the strength PSV Eindhoven possess.

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