Sportupdatehub takes a look at how Mikel Arteta might line his side up for their Europa League trip to the Phillips Stadion.
Qualification for the knockout phase of this year’s Europa League may already be secure, but Mikel Arteta has made it very clear that he wants top spot certain with time to spare.
“Last week we made the first step which was to qualify for the next round,” the Spaniard said in his pre-match press conference. “We need to win tomorrow because we want to finish first.”
The benefits of this approach are obvious. Even if Arsenal did look tired towards the end of their 1-1 draw with Southampton on Sunday, going strong now may prove to be like rubbing alcohol in that it will sting the Gunners now, but save them in the future. Avoiding what appears to be a strong set of teams dropping down from this season’s Champions League will be huge and the benefit of playing two fewer games by going straight to the round of 16 is something Arteta is very keen on.
With that in mind, you can expect him to go for a relatively strong starting XI for what is, on paper, probably the toughest fixture Arsenal have in this group.
Matt Turner starting in goal may not exactly fall into this category, but the back four in front of him is where we can expect to see the Gunners flex their muscles in Holland. Ben White was withdrawn early at St. Mary’s as a potential indicator that he could start despite Arteta’s insistence that Cedric is worth of minutes.
Inside of him Rob Holding is an obvious choice, and Gabriel has generally been Arteta’s go-to pick to partner the former Bolton man in Europe this season. At left-back, Kieran Tierney should return and it will be telling how much he plays to see whether he is in his manager’s thoughts for the starting XI against Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
In midfield, Albert Sambi Lokonga is an obvious pick, while the same goes for Fabio Vieira, even if neither have seemingly done enough to trouble the first time with their Europa League displays. The main question is which of Granit Xhaka or Martin Odegaard will complete the trio. The smart money would seem to be on Odegaard given the alternating way Arteta has chosen to share the minutes this year, but don’t be too surprised if we do see Xhaka again.
On the right wing Marquinhos missed the training session at London Colney on Wednesday with illness and although he might make the squad still, it’s hard to see him starting at the Phillips Stadion. With that in mind, it’s probably a safe bet to assume that Bukayo Saka will continue on the right wing, particularly after Arteta’s comments about the number of games he needs to be playing to go to the top.
Up front Gabriel Jesus was the man put in front of the press ahead of the game which would seem to suggest that he’s in line to start this one. That could well mean a return to the left wing for Eddie Nketiah, although it will be fascinating to see if Arteta wants to use his two forwards in more of an orthodox pairing.
Predicted Arsenal XI vs PSV: Turner; White, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Lokonga, Xhaka, Vieira; Saka, Nketiah, Jesus.