It’s been an indifferent, yet quietly encouraging, start to the season for Arsenal, who fought back from the dead against Tottenham to make it a respectable seven points from a possible 12 to start the season before the international break.
With a well-earned rest under (some of) the player’s belts, however, it’s almost time to get back to action, and they make the short trip to Watford on Sunday looking to take advantage of the tumultuous state of play at Vicarage Road and record win number three of the season.
How they will line up to do just that is a mystery as Unai Emery continues to chop and change his formation and personnel, but the following is 90min‘s best guess.
Goalkeeper and Defenders
Bernd Leno (GK) – Little doubt about this one since Petr Cech hung up the gloves. Leno has been a mainstay and caught the eye with one or two special saves against Spurs.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (RB) – This one comes a week or two early for Hector Bellerin who continues his recovery from injury, but in his absence, Maitland-Niles has proved himself to be a capable alternative – and may just have laid down the gauntlet to make the spot his own long-term.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos (CB) – The glue that holds the Gunners defence together at present, he’s played every minute of the season so far and the lack of alternative senior options means it would take something drastic for him not to make the XI.
David Luiz (CB) – He’s like marmite and his limitations are about as discreet as a Christmas tree in September, but Luiz looks to be the first choice partner for Sokratis – at least until William Saliba finally arrives next summer.
Sead Kolasinac (LB) – Has the spot for the time being but that may be a different story once Kieran Tierney gets himself fit.
Matteo Guendouzi (CM) – The 20-year-old has carved out an immutable starting spot for himself in the side and very nearly produced a match-winning display against Spurs. Earned his first France call-up during the break and though he’ll have to wait on his senior debut, he’ll be keen to keep the momentum ticking at club level.
Granit Xhaka (CM) – Seems a key part of Emery’s plans despite not being the best of his midfield options. Rarely misses a game when fit although you do suspect few Gunners fans would be upset to see Lucas Torreira starting instead.
Dani Ceballos (CM) – Yet to properly establish himself as a starter, but his presence in midfield facilitates the transition between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 without the need for a substitution. Joe Willock is the alternative for that role and could start but the Spaniard looks more likely given his superior class.
Nicolas Pepe (RW) – Yet to get off the mark but that’s not for the want of trying. If he does make the XI you sense it’s just a matter of time before he starts hammering them in.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) – Last season’s golden boot winner has three goals in four games and has played every minute so far this season. With Alexandre Lacazette out injured, he will be the man to lead the line.
Reiss Nelson (LW) – Lacazette’s absence opens up a berth alongside Aubameyang and Pepe in the attacking triangle and if Emery does keep with the 4-3-3, then it’s likely Nelson will be given another chance to shine.