Arsenal enjoyed another win in the Europa League against Molde last night. The Gunners are top of Group B with three wins out of three, and have given themselves the chance to secure qualification to the knockout stages with two games to spare if they beat Molde in the reverse fixture in Norway 26th November.
Having fallen behind to an impressive strike midway through the first half, Arsenal equalised before the break with an own goal, before enough own goal gave them the lead shortly after the restart. Joe Willock and Nicolas Pepe increased the advantage during the second half, while, with no VAR in play in the Europa League, Eddie Nketiah had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside.
It was an overall impressive display, especially after the restart, but what impact has this game had, if any, Arteta’s choices for his starting XI against Aston Villa on Sunday? This is my pick for who should make the cut:
Goalkeeper and Defenders
Bernd Leno – this one almost doesn’t need thinking about. The German is Mike Arteta’s first choice goalie, and played well against Molde.
Hector Bellerin – having been rested against Molde in midweek, it’s all but certain Bellerin will return to the team at the weekend. He has been in good form this season, with his pace and intelligent runs proving useful down the right hand side.
Gabriel – Also rested was Gabriel. His performances this season have been outstanding, with his composure in the tackle and on the ball being particularly impressive. He’ll return this weekend, to the excitement of many Arsenal fans.
David Luiz – Although he played in midweek, Luiz has proved to be one of Arteta’s most important players this season, not only looking solid in defense, but also proving useful going forward with his passing range. It’s possible that Arteta will rest him after the midweek game, but with his performances good, and having now returned from injury, my bet is that he’ll start at the weekend, and continue his partnership with Gabriel at centre-back.
Kieran Tierney – Whether he plays at centre-back in the 3-4-3, or on the left as a traditional full-back, KT will be back at the weekend. His passing and technical ability on the ball is impressive, and he often provides a good outlet with his driving runs from defence.
With their performance against Manchester United, and the fact that both were rested in midweek, it’s difficult to look past Mohammed Elneny and Thomas Partey for at least two midfield spots. The duo worked perfectly together, providing Arsenal with the graft and drive that allowed them to dominate Manchester United for large parts of the game.
Elsewhere, whether he plays in central midfield or further back at left wing-back, Bukayo Saka is bound to return against Villa. His cameo appearance against Molde ended in an assist for Pepe’s goal, and he seems to have cemented his place in Arteta’s fist XI for the time being.
Aubameyang – the fact that Aubameyang didn’t feature against Molde will be useful to Arteta, as he’ll now be fully ready for the weekend’s game. This one doesn’t need talking about, and he’s arguably the first name on the team sheet most weeks.
Pepe – In his post match interview, Arteta was keen to emphasise that Pepe needs to be more consistent throughout the entire game if he’s going to secure a place in the side in the Premier League. But, having chipped in with a goal and an assist, I’m tipping Pepe to get the nod in order to capitalise on a good performance.
Lacazette – Lacazette played well against Manchester United last weekend, nullifying Fred in midfield and getting on the end of a couple of decent chances, even though he didn’t score. And with no bona-fide creative midfielder in the ranks at present, the Frenchman is important to the way Arsenal play, acting as an outlet for forward passes and progressing the play up the pitch. He was rested in the week for a reason, and he’ll be back at the weekend.
Arsenal take on Aston Villa at the Emirates on Sunday, hoping to build on a strong run of three straight wins in all competitions.
Author: Ben Kitto