Arsenal face off Barcelona tonight in their final pre-season game of the summer in the Joan Gamper Cup final at Camp Nou after returning from a decent run of friendlies.
Coming off the back of two consecutive losses against Real Madrid and Lyon, the Gunners will be looking forward to integrating their new signings into the squad to change the course of that run. Out of the 4 signings made so far, William Saliba will be the only one who will not be featuring as he returned back to St Etienne for his loan spell. Meanwhile, Dani Ceballos, Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe have a good chance of playing.
That’s what everyone thought until Arsenal announced the official travelling squad. Turns out, the Gooners will not be getting their first look at Pepe just yet as he was left behind.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 4, 2019
However, Martinelli and Ceballos have been selected among the 21-man squad travelling to Spain and are likely to feature at some point in the match. So let’s take a look at how the Londoners might lineup tonight.
If Unai Emery is somewhat serious about this match, the obvious goalkeeping choice would be Bernd Leno. Arsenal’s new No. 1 just edges over Emiliano Martinez due to his ability of playing out from the back. That isn’t to say Martinez isn’t good enough to make the cut. The Argentine had a great preseason and may get substituted on if things go well enough.
Now to the North Londoners’ biggest nucleus of problems — defense. With Hector Bellerin still being nursed back into peak condition, he has not traveled and thus will not be playing a part in this fixture. Ainsley Maitland-Niles being the the gaffer’s favourite back-up, he is expected to start on the right. Sokratis Papastathopoulos would probably be started alongside Callum Chambers in the absence of Rob Holding. Though Holding featured for the club’s U23 side over the weekend, he is not yet ready for a high-profile game yet. With news of Shkodran Mustafi‘s exit flying around, it is unlikely that he would start tonight. Sead Kolasinac is the obvious choice to cover the left flank, especially having not started any preseason match so far this summer.
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A fairly creative midfield would be the perfect choice to go for against a side like Barcelona and Ceballos and Granit Xhaka are the perfect picks. The Spaniard can be the ball-carrier in a No. 8 role and Xhaka can dictate the tempo in his preferred deep-lying playmaker role. And to add some stability to the middle of the park Lucas Torreira should feature alongside the pair.
Alexandre Lacazette has been left behind as a precaution after picking up a slight knock against his former side Lyon. Thus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be leading the front-line. Mesut Ozil may be paired up with Aubemeyang on the left and Reiss Nelson could feature on the right.
Seems like the right mixture of experience. Maybe Barcelona might do the same to test their prospects.
On the other hand, Joe Willock, Martinelli, Guendouzi, and Bukayo Saka are almost certain to make a substitute appearance at some point in the game.