Mikel Arteta takes his Arsenal side to Old Trafford on Thursday for the biggest game of their Premier League season so far to face Manchester United. Here is the predicted lineup.
There will be many more editions of the ‘biggest game of the season’. But none of the 13 games played have held as much importance as this midweek clash.
Aiming to get back into Europe after missing out for the first time in two and a half decades, taking on a side in direct competition for those spaces on their home turf makes for a serious test of the Gunners’ resolve.
That, and it’s also Manchester United vs Arsenal in the Premier League, which is historically a battle of two giants; a certified ‘big’ game.
Arsenal predicted lineup vs Manchester United: Will Mikel Arteta go 4-2-3-1 with Kieran Tierney at left-back and Bukayo Saka in the team?
How the manager goes about selecting his team will also be of huge interest. Giving Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares starts against Newcastle despite their struggles at Anfield was a clever managerial move from Arteta. He gave the pair the platform to respond to their errors and both reacted by putting in two of the best performances on the pitch.
The question, at least for Nuno, is whether that opportunity was granted because the opposition sat bottom of the table or because he sees him as the first choice left-back moving forward.
Martin Odegaard also returned to the starting lineup after a brief absence in place of Alexandre Lacazette. While he showed signs of rustiness in the game, putting him into the team just ahead of Thursday could indicate that he sees this as a decision to carry through into the coming fixtures.
In terms of injury concerns, the only worry centres around Bukayo Saka, who hobbled off in the 2-0 win. He will be assessed in the hours building up but Arteta said he was ‘hopeful’ of the 20-year-old’s inclusion.
There are some big calls to make. What will Arteta do?
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Aaron Ramsdale (GK) – The number one will be hoping for more involvement with his feet on Thursday having been mostly a bystander against the Magpies, who were happy to sit off and leave it on the attackers for penetration.
Takehiro Tomiyasu (RB) – Making 37 final third touches against Eddie Howe’s men, that number was bettered only once by Hector Bellerin across the entirety of last season. Against this opposition it’s unlikely that he’ll be that advanced, but he’s showing another string to his already impressive bow.
Benjamin White (CB) – He and Gabriel have faced some big tests already this season and, for the most part, dealt well with Liverpool’s threat before the second half crumbling. How he handles Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo is going to be fascinating.
Gabriel (CB) – The 1-0 win at Old Trafford last season felt like the announcement of Gabriel in English football. He was superb in that game, even if he was lucky to avoid a red card, and a similar level of performance will be crucial.
Kieran Tierney (LB) – Honestly? It’s anyone’s guess. But it does feel as if this would be the time to bring Tierney back into the fold as a lack of experience was the key contributor in Nuno’s issues at Anfield, and some of his erratic decision making could be detrimental on Thursday.
It wouldn’t come as any surprise to see Nuno play, though.
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