Nicolas Pepe is expected to make his first start under Freddie Ljungberg as Arsenal look to end their winless run at the Emirates against Brighton on Thursday.
Freddie Ljungberg will be in charge of the Arsenal first-team for the first time at the Emirates this week when his side takes on Brighton & Hove Albion. He will be looking to make an early impression with the fans by registering a win that would end an eight-game winless streak in all competitions.
Although Arsenal are yet to provide updated team news ahead of the game, Hector Bellerin and Dani Ceballos are unlikely to feature this week. The former is only a doubt, however, and his fitness will be assessed ahead of the game. As for Ceballos, he is “aiming to return to full training mid-December,” the club confirmed.
Ljungberg could slightly tweak his setup and employ a 4-2-2-2 this week by omitting Joe Willock from the starting lineup. But, during his pre-match press conference, when asked about the changes he could make when Brighton pay his side a visit, the Arsenal caretaker manager remained coy.
“It would be a bit silly of me to tell you what I’m going to do! We’ll see. We’ll need to look at the fitness levels of the players and who’s fit, who isn’t. We have some players who were still injured before. We’ll see.”
Willock’s exclusion will pave the way for Nicolas Pepe to make his first start under the interim Arsenal boss. He could partner Mesut Ozil in the two advanced attacking roles, just in behind the strike partnership of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Bukayo Saka is also an option, thanks to his good relationship with Ljungberg. The duo worked together when the Swede was in charge of the Arsenal reserves. Same can be said for Willock.
In midfield, Granit Xhaka should continue to get the nod ahead of Lucas Torreira. The Swiss international has managed to integrate himself back in the Arsenal midfield after falling out with the fans back in October. Xhaka is guaranteed to be partnered by Matteo Guendouzi.
Ljungberg might have to make a couple of changes in defence, though. Sokratis Papastathopoulos is expected to return to the side, at the expense of Shkodran Mustafi. The Greek international is set to resume his partnership with David Luiz at the heart of Arsenal’s four-man backline.
Elsewhere, Kieran Tierney might also return to the side, replacing Sead Kolasinac at left-back. The Scot’s defensive prowess coupled with his ability to provide dangerous crosses from the far side would be useful for the home side, especially with two strikers along with Pepe lurking in the final third.
Bellerin, meanwhile, is not expected to feature even if he gets the fitness clearance. That means Calum Chambers is set to retain his role at right-back, as will Bernd Leno in goal.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Leno; Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Tierney; Xhaka, Guendouzi; Pepe, Ozil; Lacazette, Aubameyang