Arsenal can move third in the Premier League table with a win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane this evening.
The international break arguably came at a bad time for Arsenal as we extended our unbeaten run in all competitions to eight matches with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Bournemouth at the Emirates last time out.
The two-week hiatus always disrupts the flow of domestic football but hopefully the players can pick up where they left off as we have a great chance to move back into the top four tonight.
Arsenal currently sit fifth but if we win our game in hand this evening then we’ll go above Chelsea and Leicester into third and be just one point off second-placed Man City so we can’t pass up this opportunity.
However, it won’t be an easy game as Sheffield United showed against Liverpool recently – when they should have got at least a point – they can mix it with the big boys so Arsenal shouldn’t be taking anything for granted.
Arsenal should have Alexandre Lacazette back in the squad after he recovered from an ankle injury. Emery confirmed at his press conference last Thursday that the striker is back in full training but he may not be considered 100% fit so I would expect Laca to be on the bench.
We’ve been dealt a blow with the news that Reiss Nelson has been ruled out with a knee ligament injury but Emile Smith Rowe is available again after missing the last two matches with concussion.
As for Sheffield United, they’ll hand late tests to Oli McBurnie, David McGoldrick and John Fleek.
No doubt Emery will stick with Granit Xhaka but as I’ve said several times, I think Arsenal are better off without the Swiss international in the starting eleven. I’d much prefer to see Lucas Torreira in the holding role with Matteo Guendouzi and Joe Willock [or Ceballos] in front of him as that’s a far more energetic and dynamic midfield.
This will be a tough game so I’d play Dani Ceballos on the wing – where he’s played for Spain – as that will provide us with a bit more security and I wouldn’t risk Lacazette from the start. However, I hope we see Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney starting in the full-backs positions while Rob Holding deserves to start in the middle of the back four.
This would be my line-up tonight:
Expected Sheffield United XI: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Baldock, Norwood, Stevens, Lundstram, Fleck, McBurnie, Robinson.
If Emery goes with the back four I suggested then I’d be confident of a win but with David Luiz, Calum Chambers and Xhaka expected to be in the side instead of Holding, Bellerin and Torreira, it will be a lot closer to call.
We haven’t played a top flight game at Bramall Lane since 2006 but Arsenal haven’t won a league game in our last four visits so this hasn’t been a good ground for us. I was impressed by the Blades against Liverpool recently and I think they’ll give us a tough match this evening. The hosts will be stubborn in the defence and hard to break down but hopefully we have enough quality to get a couple of goals. I’m backing the boys to bring home a narrow win.
Sheffield United 1-2 Arsenal