After what has felt like an eternity the second international break of the season is finally over.
Arsenal had finally picked up some momentum before Premier League action halted for two weeks, clinching ten points from their last four games that saw them climb up nine places – currently sitting 11th in the standings going into this weekend’s action.
Mikel Arteta’s side have looked resolute at the back since introducing Takehiro Tomiyasu and Aaron Ramsdale to the starting lineup, conceding just once across games against Norwich, Burnley, Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton.
Now, they are beginning preparations for the eighth matchday of the campaign, hosting Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium on Monday night.
With all that being said, football.london provides the early team news for the Gunners’ highly-anticipated return to action.
International break exploits
Arsenal stars enjoyed an extremely productive international break, reportedly breaking a record for the most amount of players to score during a single international break.
Thomas Partey, Emile Smith Rowe, Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Miguel Azeez, Nuno Tavares, Bukayo Saka and Mika Biereth all scored for their respective nations over the last fortnight.
These goalscoring exploits may help boost the confidence of Arteta’s attackers, who have been relatively goal-shy so far this season, with the north London club failing to find the back of the net in four of their seven league matches.
Tough-tackling midfielder Partey scored during both of Ghana’s fixtures against Zimbabwe, showcasing smart finishing during a 3-1 win last Saturday before netting the only goal of the game thanks to a stunning free-kick on Tuesday afternoon.
The 29-year-old is yet to score for the Gunners since signing from Atletico Madrid 12 months ago as only five of his 35 shots have been on target in an Arsenal shirt.
Injuries and suspensions
Arsenal have a relatively injury-free squad going into the clash against the Eagles, with Swiss captain Granit Xhaka their only long-term injury concern.
Xhaka suffered a nasty knee injury during a freak collision with Tottenham forward Lucas Moura, a clash that is likely to keep the deep-lying playmaker out for the next couple of months, leaving Arteta short of midfield options.
Arteta revealed during his pre-match press conference that Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli is also a doubt, with the 20-year-old picking up a minor injury in training.
“Unfortunately he got injured last week”, Arteta said. “It’s a minor injury, we don’t know if he’s going to be available for Monday.”
However, there doesn’t appear to be any other injury or suspension problems going into Monday night as Hale End graduate Bukayo Saka quickly recovered from the slight knock that he suffered during the aforementioned drew against the Seagulls.
The 20-year-old has been substituted after limping off during the dying embers of the game but featured for England against Andorra and Hungary, netting his third goal for The Three Lions against the former.
Decisions Arteta has to make
The main conundrum for Arteta is what formation to go with given Xhaka’s absence. The former Manchester City assistant coach deployed a 4-3-3 system against Burnley last month that saw Partey as a lone no.6 whilst Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard were ‘roaming no.8s’.
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Meanwhile, against Brighton, the Spaniard opted to utilise his favoured 4-2-3-1 setup, with Partey partnered by Albert Sambi Lokonga in a midfield pivot.
If the former is deployed then Ivorian winger Pepe can come back into the fold, something discussed by football.london‘s own Tashan Deniran-Alleyne, who argues that Saka’s best role is on the right-wing, meaning Pepe could be utilised on the left against Palace.
The Gunners’ boss may also consider giving Portuguese youngster Nuno Tavares a chance against Patrick Vieira’s side, especially considering the 22-year-old notched a goal and two assists as Portugal Under-21s demolished Liechtenstein 11-0 last week.
Potential XI: Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Odegaard, Smith Rowe; Saka, Aubameyang, Pepe
Source by Football London