As the season has progressed you haven’t exactly had to be Nostradamus to predict Arsenal’s starting XIs. Seven of the Gunners’ players have started all 19 of their Premier League games this season and since the World Cup Mikel Arteta has barely had to cope with so much as a sniff of a selection headache. That could all be about to change though. Trossard could be in starting XI. Trossard had a great game vs Man Utd.
Arteta will want to reward the patience of his squad players, but then again, this is Manchester City. The theatre in which this battle takes place means it will be something of a Cold War when it comes to the title race, but the long-term implications could be huge.
Arteta is fully aware of this and admitted in his pre-match press conference that the backheavy clashes against City this year could well “define” Arsenal’s season. The Spaniard is generally not one for sentimentality when victory is at stake, and as a result it’s easy to see him going strong.
That begins in goal where Matt Turner is in line to start with this being a cup game. In Carabao Cup semi finals against Liverpool last season though, Arteta opted to go for Aaron Ramsdale over Bernd Leno. It’s fair based on the historical precedent to expect the same again.
There is a very realistic possibility that Jakub Kiwior will not make his full Arsenal debut until Arsenal resume Europa League action in March if he does not start on Friday night. Chucking the Polish international in for his first game at the Etihad though would be a real baptism of fire. Only Arteta will know how confident he is of Kiwior’s adaptability, but going for Gabriel again seems like the more likely choice. Rob Holding is someone Arteta knows everything about meanwhile, but with the potential of Erling Haaland to deal with, their may be an inclination to stick with William Saliba in order to go for the win.
The decisions get no easier as we move into midfield where Mohamed Elneny’s injury creates a real problem. Arteta admitted to football.londonthat he would ideally like more cover in midfield, and if Elneny’s time on the sidelines is as long-term as some fear, then not having a stand in for Thomas Partey will be a real concern. At this point in the conversation Albert Sambi Lokonga may well raise his hand and say he can be that man, but given his selection history it doesn’t seem that Arteta shares that opinion. As a result, it feels as though Partey will play in the six, and with eight days until Arsenal’s next match it’s probably a safe risk for the short-term even if the long-term questions about his cover remain unanswered.
Lokonga might fancy his chances more of playing instead of Granit Xhaka, but again the Swiss international feels like the more likely player that Arteta will actually go for. One bit of midfield rotation the Spaniard might be prone to, is allowing Fabio Vieira the opportunity to play ahead of Martin Odegaard.
With no out and out number nine back up it almost goes without saying that Eddie Nketiah will start again in the hope of extending his positive scoring record. Either side of him though it’s an interesting decision yet again.
Leandro Trossard probably did enough against Manchester United to earn himself a start in this game, but, then again, Emile Smith Rowe also needs game time to get back to full fitness. Of course the option is there to rest Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli in order to get them both in, but it’s hard to see Arteta not playing either at City. If you had to put your money on one starting it would be Saka, but the numbers in that front line are looking far healthier than ever before.
Arsenal predicted XI vs Manchester City – Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka, Vieira; Saka, Nketiah, Trossard.