Premier League Week 2 – Sunday 22 August 2021 – Emirates Stadium
Arsenal Match Preview
A dreadful first outing against Brentford is swiftly followed by a visit from London rivals Chelsea who will have new signing Romelu Lukaku available to lead the line. It’s a tough ask, just a week into a new season: host the Champions League winners who boast one of the strongest front lines in Europe, have an almost entirely fit squad and are considered title contenders. Meanwhile, we’re still conducting transfer business, are yet to offload fringe players and have injuries in key areas all over the pitch. Ah well.
Arsenal confirmed that Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Willian all tested positive for Covid, although Auba and Willian will be assessed today and are still unlikely to feature. It’s strange that the club left it for over a week to confirm the reason for those absences, especially as it led to a number of transfer stories with Auba in particular being linked to Barcelona, while other headlines suggested a possible falling out between the players and Arteta. Looking back, I would have thought that an official public announcement on the Covid cases might have put more pressure on the Premier League to call off the Brentford fixture, or perhaps that’s me being optimistic…..or pessimistic. I forget which.
Talk in the midweek suggested that Arteta could tweak the formation a little and maybe even field a back three, switching to 3-4-3. That would make sense in a match like this where we need numbers at the back and better control in the centre of the pitch, perhaps better utilising our pace on the counter through Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe. There were also reports that Gabriel Martinelli was training as a number nine and would be deployed up top and that’s encouraging. Without Laca or Auba last week, we lacked any real threat in the box and were too reliant on ESR and Saka to break the lines, while Folarin Balogun didn’t look up to the task just yet.
Martin Odegaard’s signing was confirmed yesterday and that’s a huge step in the right direction. The midfielder will likely watch from the sidelines as he’s not able to be registered in time. Arsenal have also confirmed the addition of Aaron Ramsdale and announced that he’ll be in contention for this match. Again, it’s a great move for the club and player, especially as he pushed for the move, and the sooner he’s in the match-day squad, the better.
It’s a coin-toss trying to predict the starting XI, so i’ll take a stab in the dark and say 4-2-3-1 will be how we line up with Leno between the sticks and Callum Chambers at right-back. The news about Hector Bellerin wanting to leave the club might mean that he sits out the next few weeks until his future at the club is decided. Ben White and Pablo Mari will likely be the centre-backs with Kieran Tierney playing at left-back. Granit Xhaka and Sambi Lokonga did OK last week so they’ll likely retain their spots with Nicolas Pepe and Bukauo Saka on the wings and ESR playing just behind Martinelli.
Probable Arsenal lineup:
4-2-3-1: Leno; Chambers, White, Mari, Tierney; Lokonga, Xhaka; Pepe, Smith Rowe, Saka; Martinelli
Partey (ankle), Nketiah (ankle), Magalhães (knee), Aubameyang (Covid), Lacazette (Covid), Rúnarsson (Covid), Willian (Covid)
Probable Chelsea lineup:
3-4-2-1: Mendy; Rudiger, Christensen, Chalobah; Azpilicueta, Kante, Jorginho, Kante, Alonso; Havertz, Mount, Werner.
Ziyech, Loftus-Cheek, Pulisic, Kante