Arsenal’s final game of the month, against Nottingham Forest, is set for Sunday afternoon at the Emirates Stadium.
Juggling the Premier League and the Europa League this month was always going to be a challenge for Gunners manager Mikel Arteta, and he’s had to make full use of his first-team squad over the eight games so far due to the absences of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Emile Smith Rowe, and Mohamed Elneny.
Despite Thursday evening’s loss at the hands of PSV Eindhoven, Arsenal’s six triumphs – including superb home victory over both Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool – is a very outstanding return, and they remain on pace to earn top position in their Europa League group.
However, with that defeat coming on the heels of the north London club missing points – for only the second time in the Premier League this season – in a 1-1 draw against Southampton, a portion of the support is growing unhappy about recent performances.
Arteta has observed this, and he has set a challenge for his team ahead of Forest’s visit: “There have been occasions recently when we have been brilliant and others when we have struggled,” the Spaniard remarked after the PSV defeat. “We haven’t had the consistency that we seek for 95 minutes.”
“We didn’t have the danger and aggression we’ve been showing, which is concerning.” We just walked down and didn’t know what to do when things went wrong. It is my obligation to get the finest performance from the players. They’ve been terrific and performing at a level that no one could have predicted. It’s now up to me to get the most out of them.”
The good news for the Gunners is they are back on home turf following four away games in their last five. It’s at the Emirates where they’ve been perfect so far this season and there might be pressure on Arteta to pick the right line-up to ensure his side return to winning ways.
The big call comes at left-back and after three successive Premier League starts there it is time for Takehiro Tomiyasu to be replaced. Whilst Oleksandr Zinchenko remains mysteriously absent, Kieran Tierney must reclaim that spot and offer the Gunners plenty more dominance down the left-flank to support Gabriel Martinelli,
Ben White continues to improve offensively too and combining with Bukayo Saka is sure to give Neco Williams, should he start against at left-back, all sorts of problems. A scoring prediction can never stray too far from Granit Xhaka though who has been the star of the season so far.
Arsenal XI vs Nottingham Forest: Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard; Saka, Martinelli, Jesus
Once again Arsenal’s fringe players failed to impress three days before a Premier League fixture which makes this team selection pretty straightforward in my opinion. Of course, the big call is who gets the nod at left-back and I would opt for Kieran Tierney over Takehiro Tomiyasu.
But it’s in attack where the Gunners need to start firing again as the common theme in recent weeks is they’ve not made the most of their chances when on top and that’s allowed the opposition to get back into the game. Against Leeds United, they were fortunate, but not so much against Southampton and PSV.
With that said, I don’t see Mikel Arteta doing anything drastic by changing his system to accommodate Eddie Nketiah as an extra forward. Therefore, the onus will be on Gabriel Jesus to be clinical with any chances that fall his way as he looks to end his drought in front of goal.