Our writers give their thoughts on the Gunners team Mikel Arteta should pick vs Fulham.
We’re just a day away from Premier League football returning after a long su… oh wait. The summer wasn’t even that long.
Just six weeks after lifting the FA Cup final on August 1, Arsenal begin their 2020/21 season with a trip to newly-promoted Fulham on Saturday [September 12].
Although an eighth place finish last year would have frustrated Mikel Arteta and his squad, they will be looking to build on the momentum formed in the side’s FA Cup run and Community Shield victory.
Here, we ask our Arsenal writers how they would set up the team if they were in charge at Craven Cottage. Find out what they said below.
Art de Roche – Arsenal writer
Starting in goal, Mikel Arteta will have a great dilemma to solve as to whether Emi Martinez or Bernd Leno is to start. Both proved themselves to be exceptional options but Martinez’s distribution gives him an edge on the German so he starts.
As for the shape of the team, the back three first used after the restart continued during pre-season and so will most likely be used at Fulham. William Saliba will take the right-sided role and with David Luiz dropping out, Rob Holding moves more central.
There may be expectations for a Gabriel Magalhaes debut but considering he joined the club just this month, throwing him for his full debut on the first day of an incredibly important season appears unlikely.
Kieran Tierney will continue as the left-sided centre-back with Ainsley Maitland-Niles at left wing-back, where he has excelled under Arteta in the FA Cup run as well as the Community Shield win over Liverpool.
Hector Bellerin will keep his place as the starting right wing-back as Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka reunite in midfield. Mohamed Elneny did impress in his time alongside the Swiss in pre-season but the partnership formed between Ceballos and Xhaka last season was the foundation for Arsenal to build on moving forward.
Bukayo Saka has had more game time in pre-season but with Arteta conscious of potentially ‘burning out’ his young talent, the 19-year-old may feature from the bench more often this season. As a result, Nicolas Pepe starts, but having returned in good form – for club and country – Eddie Nketiah will lead the line.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will keep his place on the left where he will continue to be the focal point of the side as captain.
Art de Roche’s XI: Martinez; Saliba, Holding, Tierney; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles, Pepe, Nketiah, Aubameyang.
Tashan Deniran-Alleyne – Live writer and Arsenal fan
It may be the opening game of the new season, but Mikel Arteta has some important decisions to make with his Arsenal team selection vs Fulham.
The first of which is who starts in goal. Emiliano Martinez was superb after lockdown last season, but I think Bernd Leno will get the nod at Craven Cottage which will result in the Argentine leaving the club.
David Luiz’s injury means one of William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes will make their Gunners debut. Given the Frenchman has played alongside Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney in a pre-season friendly, I would expect him to start in a back three.