Arsenal will look to continue their recent renaissance with a trip to Brighton, but Mikel Arteta will be forced to make a change due to Granit Xhaka’s injury.
Arsenal head to the Amex Stadium, aiming to keep their recent momentum going. The scintillating win over bitter rivals Tottenham has lifted the mood in the red part of north London, and Mikel Arteta will certainly want his team to keep moving forward.
The big news ahead of the trip to Brighton is the injury to Granit Xhaka. The midfielder made his return against Tottenham after serving a three-game domestic suspension but suffered a knee injury late in the game. After an assessment, the Swiss midfielder is ruled out for approximately three months.
Arteta will need to reshuffle his midfield, although he has plenty of players and style to ponder. He could go back to playing a midfield three with Thomas Partey at the base, or give Albert Sambi Lokonga a chance to partner the Ghanaian. Alternatively, playing with Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard allows Arsenal to field another attacker in wide areas. However, we reckon it will be the Belgian starting against Brighton.
There are no changes expected in the defensive unit. Arteta is likely to stick with the same back four that has conceded just once in three games and have Aaron Ramsdale in goal ahead of Bernd Leno, who remains puzzled over his continued exclusion.
At his pre-match press conference, the subject swerved towards former Brighton centre-back Ben White, who joined Arsenal in a huge £50 million deal in the summer. Arteta only had positive words for the defender, saying, “I’ve been very impressed with how he handles the pressure and how he’s handled the situation of coming through the Euros and paying the big fee and the composure and the calmness that he’s shown.”
“As well, the willingness to learn, to improve, because he’s realised that he is still really young, still in the development process, and there are things that he can improve. We are already enjoying [our time] together, and we have to continue like that.”
With the personnel in defence and midfield clear at this point, Arteta still has a decision to make over his starting attackers. Smith Rowe’s terrific performance warrants a start against Brighton, and the same goes for Bukayo Saka. However, Nicolas Pepe holds a prolific record versus Brighton, scoring three goals in as many games.
The feeling is that Arteta will retain the attacking lineup that started against Tottenham. So, Smith Rowe shall be deployed on the left flank, with Saka on the right wing while Odegaard will reprise the no.10 role. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has given the manager no reason to look towards Alexandre Lacazette, who will feature on the bench alongside Pepe.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Lokonga; Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe; Aubameyang