Mikel Arteta could make stylistic changes to his Arsenal lineup by bringing Nicolas Pepe back into the fold against Crystal Palace at the Emirates.
Arsenal aims to collect three points against Crystal Palace at the Emirates on Monday night. The pre-match talk was all dominated by the homecoming of former captain Patrick Vieira, who returns as Palace manager. To contain the Frenchman’s attacking and progressive style of football, Mikel Arteta will make slight, stylistic changes.
From a tactical perspective, Arteta wants his team to take two shapes depending on if they have the ball or not. With the ball, a 4-1-4-1 could be visible, with Thomas Partey sitting at the base. It gives the side more impetus in attack and allows Arteta to include another attacker with goalscoring ability.
Nicolas Pepe could be this player, and Arteta could bring him back into the fold after benching the Ivorian in the last two league fixtures. Pepe has a decent record against Crystal Palace, and his brace in their previous meeting is proof enough. The winger could become a focal point for the long balls from defence and provide an additional threat in attack for Arsenal.
Alternatively, Arteta could retain the same starting lineup from the Brighton game with Albert Sambi Lokonga sitting in a midfield double pivot alongside Partey. The Belgian is understandably Granit Xhaka’s direct replacement in the side, without really offering what the Swiss midfielder does.
Playing with a 4-3-3 will likely give the team more control over proceedings, considering they want to keep hold of the ball as much as possible.
In defence, Arteta will retain the players who have played in the last four games. Aaron Ramsdale will keep Bernd Leno on the bench again, while Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White keep their partnership intact at the heart of the Arsenal backline. Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu will reprise their full-back roles.
Arteta has no new problems with injuries and suspensions, although he mentioned a small problem with Gabriel Martinelli during his pre-match press conference. The supposed issue could keep him out of contention for the Crystal Palace game.
Arteta said, “Unfortunately, he got injured last week – it’s a minor injury, and we don’t know if he’s going to be available for Monday. We have a lot of options with Gabi, and we need to find the right space for him to grow within the squad.”
From how things look, Thomas Partey will play as the deepest of the three midfielders, with Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard reprising the more attacking roles. The Norwegian will likely drop deep without the ball.
Nicolas Pepe is expected to come in on the right side of the attack, while Bukayo Saka could move back to the left flank. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will continue his role as Arsenal’s leading striker, with Alexandre Lacazette again finding himself on the bench.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Odegaard, Partey, Smith-Rowe; Pepe, Aubameyang, Saka