Mikel Arteta could make slight changes to the Arsenal lineup for the Aston Villa clash, with Emile Smith Rowe likely to come in for Gabriel Martinelli.
Mikel Arteta has named an unchanged lineup for four Premier League games in a row, but he might make slight changes to his team for this weekend’s clash between Arsenal and Aston Villa. Had it not been for the congested fixture list and the limited recovery time between matches, the same side would have started for the fifth successive match.
The incumbent team has been performing consistently, meaning Arteta is only pondering essential changes to combat fatigue. The same back four could feature against Villa, as Takehiro Tomiyasu is not considered match-fit just yet. The Japanese full-back might have returned to training, but bringing him back straight away might be viewed as a risk, with the coaching staff likely to work with him through the international break.
In his pre-match press conference, Arteta said the following about Tomiyasu: “There is a chance, but we don’t know, again today in training we will see how he’s feeling.” Further, the Arsenal manager explained the problem with the Japanese full-back, adding, “Because he had a reoccurring injury around the same place and then obviously after that you have to be a little more cautious sometimes.”
Cedric Soares has been sharp in his displays in Tomiyasu’s absence, although there are question marks about whether the Portuguese full-back could play his third full game this week. Arteta certainly will be hoping he is fit enough, and the right-back is expected to keep his place for now. Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes and Kieran Tierney will complete the back four.
Arteta could revert to a more attacking 4-3-3, with Thomas Partey set to anchor the midfield on his own. Granit Xhaka could move back to a left-side no. 8 role, with more impetus on advancing the ball. Martin Odegaard will take his place on the right side of the midfield.
Emile Smith Rowe could be the only change in the entire lineup, with Arteta likely to give Gabriel Martinelli a breather after starting the last four games. The 21-year-old Smith Rowe has been dealing with fitness and COVID-19 issues, with the Brentford game his only start in this period.
Arteta also has the option of bringing in Nicolas Pepe for Bukayo Saka, although the English international is very important for the team’s attacking ideas. The 20-year-old should continue on the right side of the Arsenal attack, while Alexandre Lacazette should keep his place as the leading centre-forward.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Ramsdale, Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Odegaard, Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Lacazette, Smith Rowe