Mikel Arteta laments Xhaka injury blow for Arsenal
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Arsenal are four matches unbeaten across all competitions and will hope to make it five away at Brighton tonight (5.30pm). The Gunners will however be without integral midfielder Granit Xhaka for the trip to the Amex Stadium, with the Swiss ruled out for three months. Express Sport looks at how Mikel Arteta’s charges could line up on the south coast, as the Spaniard decides whether to stick with a 4-2-3-1 formation or utilise a 4-3-3 set-up.
Goalkeeper – Ramsdale
Aaron Ramsdale has conceded just once in the three Premier League matches he has played this term, making a string of impressive saves throughout that stint.
As such the England under-21 international, in the senior Three Lions squad for the upcoming international break, will keep his spot in the starting eleven.
Arteta said of the battle between the two shot-stoppers: “It causes that everybody has to raise the level and I think that’s really positive.
“You can see when players are coming in now they are ready to take the place. It’s going to happen with Granit. Players are ready because the training is top.”
Defence – Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney
Having conceded just one in three league outings since a 5-0 defeat to Manchester City in August, Arsenal should stick with the back four that has seen them become more sturdy at the back.
That will mean Kieran Tierney at left-back with summer signing Takehiro Tomiyasu on the right-hand side.
At centre-back, Gabriel Magalhaes will partner another summer addition, Ben White, who returns to former club Brighton this evening.
Arteta said of White pre-match: “I’ve been very impressed with how he handles the pressure, with how he handles the situation of coming through the Euros, the big fee, and the composure and the calmness that he shows.
“As well the willingness to learn and improve because he realises he’s still really young as well, he’s still in the development process and there are things that he can achieve.
“We all really enjoy being together and we have to continue like that.”
Midfield – Partey, Lokonga
Arsenal manager Arteta’s first big call comes in midfield. He is expected to stick with a 4-2-3-1 set-up given how successful it was in the north London derby defeat of Tottenham last Sunday.
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Though Thomas Partey has lost first-choice midfield partner Xhaka to a long-term injury, Albert Sambi Lokonga should come in to offer a more mobile presence next to the Ghanaian.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Mohamed Elneny will also see more minutes in the coming months because of Xhaka’s absence, though Arteta can also switch to a 4-3-3 with Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe ahead of Partey.
He should steer away from doing that here however in favour of the defensive protection a 4-2-3-1 offers, given Brighton have started the season strongly and offer huge threat in possession.
Attack – Saka, Odegaard, Smith-Rowe; Aubameyang
The second call – which ties into the first – is whether Nicolas Pepe should come into the side. Picking a 4-2-3-1 makes it easier to start both Odegaard and Smith-Rowe, however.
The Ivorian winger scored a brace against Brighton on the final day of last term but Bukayo Saka should be the player to give the Gunners width on the right.
Tierney will be trusted to stretch the pitch on the left with Smith Rowe and Odegaard coming into central areas, the pair having been instrumental against Spurs last weekend.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was much better in that match and deservedly got on the scoresheet. He’ll hope to put the Seagulls to the sword and inflate his goal tally for the campaign.
That would then see just one change made to the side that defeated Spurs with Lokonga replacing Xhaka, but Arteta will have potential game-changers off the bench in the likes of Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli.
Expected Arsenal XI to face Brighton (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Lokonga; Saka, Odegaard, Smith-Rowe; Aubameyang.
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