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Five games in fifteen days: Individual pre-match analysis

By Rob Worthington (Senior Writer)

Even as you’re reading this article, with just hours to go before Arsenal return to Premier League action, you’ll probably find it hard to believe that our website will have so much content to deliver to our readers over the next few weeks that we cannot guarantee previews for each and every Premier League match. However, that is the situation we find ourselves in. I can scarcely believe that after months of scraping the edges of a giant-sized hole concerning Arsenal information, we now find that we are spoilt for choice in terms of content. Those of you who are avid WLYA website readers would’ve seen our preview for tonight’s Manchester City encounter courtesy of our chief editor Alife Culshaw. Whilst I will mention tonight’s game will be covered in this article, as you would’ve already deduced from the title of the article, this isn’t all I’ll be offering you today. My aim is to take you on a brief, but detailed, whistle-stop tour regarding our next 5 Premier League games. First up, as you’ll already be aware of, we take on Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. #1: Team: Manchester City (A) Date: 17.06.20 Manager: Pep Guardiola Star Player: Kevin De Bruyne League Position: 2nd

Yes, our first game back is a daunting one, but still, is there really a better time to play the Citizens? Both Arsenal and Manchester City will be lacking match sharpness and it’s likely the game will be played at a low tempo which could favour us as the underdogs. City’s tactics never really change. Still, this doesn’t make them any easier to get the better of. They set-up in an expansive possession-based 4-3-3 system with world-class players in almost every position. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean Pep Guardiola’s team don’t possess any weaknesses. If we are to provide Mikel Arteta’s former boss with a challenge, we need to make sure we heavily pressurise City’s somewhat inexperienced regista, Rodri, who can be left isolated due to the attacking oriented minds of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in front of him. The Manchester side also lack a top centre-back to partner Aymeric Laporte at the centre of their defence, so whoever partners the Frenchman can’t be given a moment’s peace on the ball. This has all the ingredients to be a brilliant encounter. The master vs. apprentice element regarding Arteta and Guardiola adds fuel to the fire and the lack of match sharpness makes this one really hard to predict. This’ll be a tough test for Arteta, but it’ll certainly be an interesting one to watch. #2: Team: Brighton & Hove Albion (A) Date: 20.06.20 Manager: Graham Potter Star Player: Lewis Dunk League Position: 15th

Brighton away will also be a tough game for us but I’m definitely looking forward more to our trip to the Amex over our voyage up north to the Etihad. This will be Brighton’s first game back after their return so although they might have an advantage concerning fatigue, we’ll definitely be stronger than the seagulls in terms of match sharpness. Graham Potter’s tactics have varied this season. The Englishman has predominantly used a 4-2-3-1 formation this year but hasn’t been afraid to convert to a 5-2-2-1 if need be. It’s widely accepted that Potter has improved Brighton’s playing style but they’ve struggled for points this term. The Seagulls are yet to win a match in 2020 and have scored more than one goal on just a single occasion since their last victory, a 2-0 win at home against fellow strugglers Bournemouth. Arsenal have notoriously struggled at the Amex since Brighton’s 2017 promotion. However, that needs to change this weekend and I expect it do so. The lack of supporters will be most likely to work in our favour with this one. Hopefully our players can capitalise on this and pick up what should be a routine victory. #3 Team: Southampton (A) Date: 25.6.20 Manager: Ralph Hasenhüttl Star Player: Danny Ings League Position: 14th

After our trip to the Amex, Mikel Arteta and his side will enjoy a 5-day break to recuperate ahead of some Thursday night football against Southampton. Again, this is a fixture Arsenal tend to struggle in. Arsenal are without a win at St. Mary’s since 2017. Still, judging by what’s gone on in Germany over the last few weeks, the challenge of playing away seems to have diminished due to the behind closed doors environment. This could play in our favour with this one. Hasenhüttl’s side have recovered respectably after their 9-0 thrashing from Leicester City during the opening weeks of this Premier League season and the Austrian was rewarded over lockdown through a new contract. The Saints’ play at a high tempo and like Brighton have the ability to shift between a 5 and 4 at the back. Over the course of the season, Southampton have notched up an xG/90 of just over 1.3 and an xGA/90 of just over 1.4. This shows that their GD of -17 is far from a fair reflection of their football this season. This number is noticeably exaggerated due to the Saints’ 9-0 hammering from the Foxes. This matchup will be far from a walk in the park. If Arteta’s men are to walk away with all three points against Hasenhüttl’s side, they need to keep Southampton’s 15-goal-man Danny Ings quiet and they must combat Southampton’s high energy approach effectively. #4 Team: Sheffield United (A) Date: 28.06.20 Manager: Chris Wilder Star Player: John Lundstram Competition stage: Quater-Final

Arsenal’s FA Cup journey continues as we travel to the Premier League’s shock high-flyers Sheffield United for our quarter-final tie. We have already met the Blades twice this season with a 1-0 loss away at Bramall Lane in October and a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in January. Chris Wilder’s magnificently effective 5-3-2 has led to the Bramall Lane side losing on just 7 occasions in the League this season in a season which has left the side captained by Lee Sharpe with a fighting chance to capture a Europa League spot. Sheffield United fans would’ve been delighted to have merely secured Premier League safety at the start of the year, let alone be in contention for a spot in Europe at this point in the season. This is a season that Wilder’s men should be immensely proud of. So, this cup tie will definitely be a difficult one. If we are to progress to the semi-final, the Gunners need to nullify the threat posed by Sheffield United’s overlapping wide centre-back along with their wing-backs who cause all kinds of trouble for wide defenders and midfielders. Their unique set-up makes them a difficult side to overcome, although, this is another game the lack of supporters should help Arsenal in and I’d expect us to progress in this one. #5 Team: Norwich City (H) Date: 1.7.20 Manager: Daniel Farke Star Player: Emi Buendia League position: 20th

As July commences, we finally return to the Emirates Stadium to host Norwich City in an encounter which is must win for us. The Canaries have been very poor this season and this is the sort of game Arsenal just can’t afford not to win. The Carrow Road side were revelling in some decent form before football was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic but overall a collection of just 0.72 points per game has left Norwich’s relegation all but confirmed. Still, Daniel Farke’s men do actually play some pretty nice football. Emi Buendia, one of this website’s favourite non-Arsenal players, has been immense in terms of creation and has registered creative numbers only really bettered by Kevin De Bruyne this season. One of these is an xA/90 of 0.31. Norwich’s young full-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis also pose a threat but Arsenal really shouldn’t be caused any trouble in this one. Judging by the precedent the Bundesliga has provided us with, after 5 games Arsenal should be back at a decent level of intensity so it’d be nice to see us do a job on the Canaries. What Next? The games continue to come thick and fast after the five games in fifteen days are out the way. Unfortunately, it’s not as if they become any easier either. July will represent encounters with the likes of Wolves, Spurs, Leicester City and Liverpool. Still, this is what the Premier League is all about. A difficult game every single week. That’s why we love it and that’s why we can’t wait till tonight’s Premier League return. Just remember, anything can happen.

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