Arsenal predicted team vs West Ham

Bukayo Saka to start as Arteta faces William Saliba dilemma

EPLUPDATE takes a look at how the Gunners could line up for their Premier League clash with the Hammers at the Emirates Stadium on Boxing Day.

It does feel weird to be writing one of these after such a long break. The World Cup was great and all, but it’s time for the Premier League to make its return.

As far as Arsenal are concerned it has the potential to be a rude awakening with a possible banana skin of a London derby against West Ham. David Moyes’ side are far from the force they were last season, but write them off at your peril.

Normally those stakes would be high enough, but Mikel Arteta now has the added pressure of a title race to contend with. Throw all those ingredients together for this festive feast and you realise how crucial it is that the Spaniard gets his team selection right.

This fixture presents the first of many challenges Arsenal and pretty much every Premier League team face when it comes to reintegrating their World Cup players. Thus far the Gunners have done so via a careful diet of warm weather training in Dubai and ice cold friendlies back in London.

Present for the latter was Aaron Ramsdale who should be fine to start after featuring in games against Juventus and Luton. The 24-year-old didn’t play a minute for England in Qatar and should be raring to go.

It’s a similar case for Ben White who left the World Cup even earlier amid conflicting reports over the reasoning why. It’s not clear what impact this will have on his England chances going forward, but as far as Arsenal are concerned he is going to be the starting right-back for the forseeable.

It was interesting to hear Arteta discuss how moving White to right-back was always in his plans in an interview with Jamie Carragher and equally fascinating to hear his views on central defence.

“I don’t see the centre-back position as something individual,” the Spaniard said. “I think it’s a partnership and that partnership has to have some sort of chemistry between the two and the qualities of those two have to complement each other.”

Thus far this season those words have rung true. William Saliba and Gabriel have started every single Premier League match together. For the first time though the duo may have to be broken up.

Saliba returned to London Colney after France’s run to the World Cup final on December 23. The 21-year-old played just 27 minutes in Qatar, and therefore starting him straight away on Boxing Day doesn’t feel like too much of a risk.

At the same time does Arteta risk long-term damage by throwing Saliba back in for the short term gain of this one match against West Ham. Given the Spaniard’s views on centre-back pairings it does feel like he will take the plunge and start Saliba, but Rob Holding is ready and waiting if needs be.

At left-back there is another conundrum for Arteta to solve. Neither Takehiro Tomiyasu nor Oleksandr Zinchenko took any part in any of the warm up friendlies as they continue to recover from respective muscle issues, but EPLUPDATE understands Arsenal remain confident they’ll be fit. Still though Kieran Tierney is by no means a bad alternative. The Scot was rested against Luton and might be a safe bet to start if he’s ready to play on Boxing Day.

In midfield Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka will both be ready after their premature exits from the World Cup. Martin Odegaard wasn’t in Qatar but has been the standard barer of resuming Arsenal’s high intensity in training and will be looking to continue his fine season.

Both Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli featured against Luton and Arteta seems to be confident that the pair will be ready to come straight back in on Boxing Day. Up front will be Eddie Nketiah in what is set to be the first in a long run of starts for him while Gabriel Jesus is out injured.

Arsenal predicted XI vs West Ham – Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard; Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli.


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