Unai Emery

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PL Preview: Sheffield United v. Arsenal

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  • Arsenal has 1 loss in its last 11 Monday matches
  • Sheffield United has 7 goals this PL season from 7 different goalscorers
  • The Blades have not lost 4 home league games in a row since 1965

Arsenal has the opportunity to jump third in the Premier League table and earn early title considerations as they visit pesky Sheffield United on Monday, with kickoff set for 3:00 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

[ WATCH LIVE: Sheffield United v. Arsenal ]

The Gunners are currently fifth with 15 points but can leap in front of both Chelsea and Leicester City with victory at Bramall Lane. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in fabulous goalscoring form with seven strikes through the first eight matches of the Premier League season, set to lead the lines again on the road.

Unai Emery has one big question ahead of the match, with Alexandre Lacazette close to a return from his ankle injury but still unsure of his fitness level. The Frenchman netted twice in three matches to start the season but has not featured since September 1. If he is only fit for the bench, 18-year-old Bukayo Saka could see another start on the wing after a bright performance against Bournemouth, or Emery could choose to move Dani Ceballos out to the wing and slide Lucas Torreira into the midfield. Mesut Ozil could also be an option but he has been a periphery player for Emery this year.

Sheffield United sits 15th in the table, just a point above the relegation zone, but the Blades have been a difficult out for Liverpool, Chelsea, and Leicester City already this season and seem poised to pull off a surprising result at some point soon. A trio of internationals returned from duty this past week with injuries, leaving Chris Wilder with some decisions to make. The most obvious seems to be leaving striker Oli McBurnie on the sidelines having been charged with a DUI over the last 24 hours as well as picking up a knee problem over the international break. That would most see either Lys Mousset or Billy Sharp to take the striker role alongside Callum Robinson.

The Blades have been better on the road than at home, having lost their last three at Bramall Lane. Wilder must figure out how to galvanize his team to play in front of the home fans instead of just playing road spoiler where they almost seem more comfortable.

Injuries/suspensions

Sheffield United: QUESTIONABLE – John Fleck (knee), Oli McBurnie (knee), David McGoldrick (groin).

Arsenal: QUESTIONABLE – Alexandre Lacazette (ankle).


Projected lineups

Sheffield United: Henderson; Stevens, O’Connell, Egan, Basham, Baldock; Fleck, Norwood, Lundstram; Robinson, Sharp.

Arsenal: Leno; Tierney, Luiz, Sokratis, Bellerin; Guendouzi, Xhaka, Ceballos; Saka, Aubameyang, Pepe.


What they’re saying

Sheffield United manager Wilder on team form: “I thought we played well against Liverpool but we need to pick up something from the game this time and we believe we can do that. We went after Liverpool when we could and picked our times, and we will do that against Arsenal.”

Arsenal boss Emery on Mesut Ozil: “I am really happy with the players. The last two, three, four weeks, every player – and Mesut Ozil – is working very well. This is why we can be positive and we can think we are going to do something important this year.”


Prediction

This game has the potential to be a lot of fun as both sides play a fluid style of possession and pace. Arsenal will have to keep an eye on Robinson as the 24-year-old has the ability to find spaces between defenders, and David Luiz in particular hasn’t been in great form. Still, Sheffield United has a few key injuries that threaten the midfield, and that will ultimately doom them to a 3-1 loss as Aubameyang picks up two more goals.

Tierney, Lacazette available for Arsenal

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Arsenal are edging closer to finally having a full-strength squad.

Ahead of Monday’s prime-time matchup with Sheffield United, Arsenal manager Unai Emery confirmed that Kieran Tierney was in line to make his Premier League debut, while Alexandre Lacazette was back in full training and should be in the gameday squad.

“Today is Lacazette’s first training back with us,” Emery said in a press conference on Thursday. “He finished it well and he’s feeling well with his injuries. Tomorrow we will be training again and he will be with us. We will decide.

“The most important thing is that first he is training, then secondly it’s whether he can be with us and it depends how he can feel in the next days training with us, whether his ankle is not giving him any more problems.”

This is a huge boost to Arsenal, which has had to rely on some youngsters and have made some lineup changes to accommodate not having Lacazette on the field. Tierney meanwhile could step into a position where there’s already a decent starter, Sead Kolasinac.

Lacazette’s return also couldn’t have come at a better time. In Premier League action, Arsenal’s high-powered offense has been stymied, scoring just two goals in the last two league games. Meanwhile, against weaker defenses in the UEFA Europa League and the Carabao Cup, Arsenal has bagged a total of 12 goals.

The veteran Frenchman has scored two goals in three appearances so far this season, including a big goal just before halftime in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham. However, he suffered a long-term ankle injury in that match that has kept him on the sidelines for more than a month.

“[Tierney is] ready to play,” Emery later said. Now we have two options in that left-back role with Sead Kolasinac and him. We’re going to play a lot of matches after Monday. We will need every player. It depends how he comes into the first training with us, Sead, after his international matches. We now have two players in that position and we can use one on Monday, it depends how they are, one or the other.”

Tierney, the 22-year-old Scottish left back, has made two appearances for the Arsenal first team since recovering from a double hernia operation over the summer. Signed from Celtic for around $32 million, Tierney adds a skill that Kolasinac has struggled with – expert crosser of the ball into the box, where the likes of Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can score when given a decent chance.

Emery pleased as youth helps Arsenal outlast Bournemouth, keep clean sheet

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Arsenal boss Unai Emery says it’s more than the clean sheet his side kept in a 1-0 defeat of Bournemouth, but how they looked in keeping it.

The Gunners copped just their second Premier League clean sheet of the season on Sunday. The first coming against sterile Newcastle, this one against lively Bournemouth felt a lot better.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 1-0 Bournemouth ]

That Arsenal did it after playing Thursday, and with four young players getting big minutes, means a lot to Emery.

“For me it’s one step more for the young players, for us,” he said. “We didn’t feel fear with that moment when the opposition was pushing us. Really I think the second half we can analyze and improve, we will do. In 90 minutes we deserved to win.”

Bukayo Saka (18) and Matteo Guendouzi (20) both started, with the latter going 90 minutes in a Man of the Match performance. Joe Willock (20) and Gabriel Martinelli (18) came into the game to see it out.

And the defense. David Luiz, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, and Sead Kolasinac have been a part of some horror shows this season, but — together with Calum Chambers — they were much better on Sunday.

“I remember the last matches we played here,” Emery said. “We can remember that we can improve with that spirit. The level in the Premier League is more than the cups but we played with one idea and one style. We want to use this way. An objective today was to win and then to take that way. The first half we did that.”

With Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, and Wolves next, the Gunners have winnable matches that will also test their resolve. Let’s see what lies ahead for the Top Four chasing Gunners.

Europa League preview: Solskjaer slams turf in Netherlands; Emery seeks win

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Tough road tests await Manchester United and Wolves, while Arsenal stays home for Thursday’s round of Europa League matches.

Having thumped Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany, the Gunners can deliver themselves control of the group by defeating Standard Liege.

[ MORE: Full Europa League schedule ]

That won’t be as easy as it sounds, even at the Emirates Stadium, because Standard enters the match on a five-match unbeaten streak.

Unai Emery just wants a win.

“With a good performance, with good pieces, with also controlling the match and with good positioning on the pitch for good pressing against them,” Emery said. “Tomorrow, we need that. Also, a clean sheet is important. Yes, it’s important. But I think it’s one process, to be strong, to be competitive defensively and offensively. I think we are getting better little by little, but each match is a big challenge for us to show how we are improving as a team. But above all is to win.”

Standard is led by 23-year-old midfielder Samuel Bastien and 21-year-old goalkeeper Arnaud Bodart, the latter of whom has only allowed seven goals in nine appearances this year.

The Gunners drew Manchester United 1-1 on Monday, a result which cast even more doubt on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s ability to generate consistent performances from the Old Trafford set.

The Red Devils face AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, and AZ is young and fierce. Nineteen-year-old defender Owen Wijnald is one of several green players chewing up big minutes for the side.

They could well face an almost as young United on Thursday, with Paul Pogba unable to play with an ankle injury. And Solskjaer said he might’ve not played Pogba if he was healthy due to the state of the pitch at ADO Den Haag, where AZ is playing while its stadium is repaired.

“It’s one of the worst ones I’ve seen for a long while, we’ve all got standards back home in Norway and they are all modern and new but it’s safe, I’m not saying that… it’s just not the newest.”

Watch out for Oussama Idrissi, who has six goals this season, as well as 18-year-old Myron Boadu. The teen has four goals and three assists in 624 Eredivisie minutes.

Wolves have the toughest test of the Premier League sides in the Europa League, and they’ll face Besiktas in Turkey.

Both Wolves and their hosts lost their opening group stage matches, so the stage is set for some drama in Istanbul.

Wolves’ defender Conor Coady said the team will be buoyed by its weekend win over Watford, its first this season in the Premier League.

“Saturday was huge for us,” he said. “Not necessarily the result, but the way we played, we looked a little bit more like ourselves. We haven’t really panicked to much about the start of the season because we know it’s early but it was good, and the clean sheet was massive.”

Wolves and Manchester United play their matches at 12:55 p.m. ET, while Arsenal will kickoff at 3 p.m.

Emery: ‘I want more’ from Arsenal team, attackers

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Unai Emery wants goals from people other than Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which sure sounds like a shot at big money signing Nicolas Pepe.

At least that’s all we can gather, considering he started three defensive midfielders as Arsenal drew Manchester United on Monday. Matteo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, and Lucas Torreira earned starts. Alexandre Lacazette again missed out through injury.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 1-1 Arsenal ]

Pepe definitely had a poor match. It was a step back from his previous three matches, with a goal and an assist in those, and he certainly missed straight-forward chances to score a second Premier League goal.

“We have young players who can take confidence. (Saka) is progressing well but we need other players too. This is not the best in terms of points but one point can be good if we win next Sunday against Bournemouth. We are very happy with (Aubameyang) and he is with his goal. We need more players with the ability to score.”

Like we wrote, maybe play ’em, Unai. All three of Emery’s subs at Old Trafford were of the playmaking variety: Dani Ceballos, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson.

The overall performance showed some progress, said Arsenal’s boss as the Gunners moved back into the Top Four. But it isn’t enough.

“I want more: More in the result and in the performance but we are progressing. We were competitive but we can do better. We can control moments with the ball better and take more chances in the box.”