On paper, we should have this one sewed up by halftime. Sheffield United are winless anywhere in any competiion, and that includes a home loss to League One Lincoln City in the League Cup (alliteration fans, rejoice!). Still, the Blades have shown some steel, losing at home to Man City 1-2, losing 2-1 away to Tottenham, and losing at home to Man U 1-2. They might be bottom of the table and hoping for Everton to be hit with that 12–point deduction, and Paul Heckingbottom might be rueing his aptronymic destiny, but we’d do well to be wary of our visitors.
We’ll be without Thomas and Jesus, which may stand as the first time we’ve gone without a player known by his first name and another known by his surname. At a risk of slighting our guests, we really shouldn’t miss them all that much. We did well to control the midfield without Thomas against both Chelsea and Sevilla, and there’s an argument to be made for Martinelli to play through the middle with Trossard on the left. I might even go so far as to suggest that Saka be rested. Play Vieira in his stead even if this is a less-familiar position. I’d much rather see Saka in bubble-wrap for another week.
I see no need to shuffle the defense all that much unless Arteta wants to give Kiwior more time on the pitch. The Blades are not likely to test us all that much, so a standard backline that includes White, Saliba, Magalhães, and Zinchenko should do just fine (although it might be intriguing to see Kiwior in at left back and Zinchenko in midfield…).
Speaking of midfield, I’d expect to see Havertz, RIce, and Ødegaard. One wrinkle to consider would be Havertz as the #9, which would make room for Nelson in his preferred position on the left. With Jesus out, Nketiah not up to snuff, and Nelson chomping at the bit, the time is ripe to play Havertz through the middle. It’s a role he’s played well for Die Mannschaft as well as for us even when it hasn’t been his nominal position. He wins aerial duels, links, defense to attack, and finds space between the lines.
Whatever lineup Arteta chooses, we’ll have to assume that the Blades will come in bound and determined to secure a draw at a minimum. Expect a well-organised and determined defense that dares us to pick them apart patiently. Without Jesus to pull defenders out of position, and (it is hoped) Saka to stretch their left flank, we may struggle to create chances, but that’s not the same as saying that we’ll suffer. In the end, we really should come away with all three points, and I don’t think it’s arrogant in the least to say so.
Scoreline? Arsenal 2-0 Sheffield United. Share your predictions below in the comments-section below.