Arsenal can end 2020 with back-to-back Premier League wins – to just about everybody’s surprise – when they visit Brighton on Tuesday.
Mikel Arteta’s side have endured a torrid time of it in the league so far this season and had been winless since 1 November until they fought to a much needed 3-1 victory against Chelsea at the weekend.
Brighton isn’t the easiest place to go considering their shaky form and poor head to head record against the Seagulls, but a win would be huge in lifting them away from the bottom of the table and back up the ranks, with Brighton currently sat four points behind them in 16th.
The Gunners looked much improved against Chelsea thanks to a change of shape and attitude. Here’s who should start against the Seagulls in what was previously tipped as a relegation six pointer.
Bernd Leno (GK) – Saved a penalty against Chelsea which will do wonders for the confidence of not only him but his defenders, too.
Hector Bellerin (RB) – Bellerin has been subject to criticism this season but was immense at the weekend and thrived upon being given captaincy. More of the same and he can be key to a turnaround in fortunes.
Rob Holding (CB) – Holding has also come under fire and, truthfully, is a part of the problem at Arsenal in that the squad simply isn’t good enough. His commitment cannot be doubted, however, and he’ll likely start again here.
Shkodran Mustafi (CB) – Pablo Mari looked seriously shaky at the weekend and with fixtures coming thick and fast, rotation is a must. Mustafi was a late substitute against Chelsea and may get the nod against Brighton.
Kieran Tierney (LB) – Similarly to Bellerin, Tierney was given a new lease of life and looked much sharper in a back four. There were still questionable moments, but his attacking prowess will be key in this one.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (DM) – Arsenal’s utility man is seriously underrated, but has the chance to prove his worth during a hectic time of the year. Maitland-Niles’ versatility will be key in the coming weeks and ease the pressure on his fellow teammates.
Granit Xhaka (DM) – Scored a peach of a free kick in the Gunners’ 3-1 Chelsea victory and will be needed to ensure Arsenal dominate midfield areas against Brighton who have a competent midfield of their own.
Nicolas Pepe (RW) – With fixtures coming thick and fast, Arsenal’s record signing is back in the XI against Brighton. Gabriel Martinelli must be protected on his return from injury, so the Ivorian gets his chance and must take it.
Emile Smith Rowe (AM) – Smith Rowe slipped under the radar against Chelsea but was quietly a strong addition to the XI. Solid off the ball movement, quick passing and a fearlessness against defenders, he’s exactly what Arsenal lack right now.
Bukayo Saka (LW) – Saka is one of few shining lights in a dismally dark Arsenal era. The 19-year-old looks a threat whenever he touches the ball and can do it on either side of the pitch. Trust in the youth, Mikel.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) – Aubameyang must start scoring upon his return from injury in order to take some pressure off his side. He’ll be recalled for the trip on Tuesday, which is the perfect chance for him to get back among the goals and truly kick off his campaign.