Arsenal make the trip to West-Yorkshire on Saturday afternoon to face the side at the bottom of the league table, Huddersfield Town
With Huddersfield looking like this season’s prime candidates for relegation, this looks (on-paper) a very winnable game for Unai Emery’s Arsenal.
The Terriers have amassed only 11 points from 25 matches in the league this season, and while coach Jan Siewert is still holding out hope of beating the drop while it’s still mathematically possible, it’s certainly a big ask.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are looking to gain as many points as possible from the remaining 13 matches for a very different reason – to clinch a European spot and set there new manager up for a first go at Europe’s premier competition in the Gunners dugout.
The loss against Manchester City last weekend means Manchester United have leapfrogged Arsenal into 5th place, with the North Londoners on 47 points and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s revitalised team a solitary point ahead on 48. Above them is Chelsea on 50 points, who have seemed the shakiest of the sides within the top 4 and look possible to overtake – especially considering they’re playing the lead leaders City at the Etihad this weekend.
Huddersfield have not had the best of luck against Arsenal in previous meetings – in the pairs only 3 Premier League fixtures, it is Arsenal who have come out on top each time, including a 1-0 win in December thanks to a late goal from midfielder Lucas Torreira. Emery will be hoping to continue his sides dominance over the Terriers, especially considering their league position.
Even though this is the case, Arsenal’s away form has been very poor recently – over the last 5 matches, the Gunners have lost four and drawn one match away from the Emirates in the league. The last away victory came against Bournemouth in late November, so that is a stat that needs to be rectified on Saturday afternoon.
What may give Arsenal some hope in addition to Huddersfield’s league position is their opponents aptitude for goal scoring – or lack of it. The only goal they’ve scored in any competition in 2019 came from Steve Mounie, a consolation in the January 2nd match against Burnley.
It’s not just this calendar year where Huddersfield haven’t posed much of a threat in front of the net – they’ve failed to score in over half of their 25 matches this season.
Amazingly, the last time Arsenal have kept an away clean sheet came against Huddrsfield – last season! The final day of the 2017/18 season seen the Gunners keep a clean sheet at the John Smith Stadium, and they haven’t managed to keep one since.
In terms of team news, Henrikh Mkhitryan may be reintroduced to the fold for the first time since December when he picked up a foot injury – the Armenian played 45 minutes for the under-23s on Monday. He may be joined by Granit Xhaka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who have also returned to training.
After limping off against City it appeared Shkrodan Mustafi may be out for the trip to west-Yorkshire after limping off against City, but apparently not – the defender is set to be fit to play on Saturday.
Reportedly suffering with illness through the week, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Laurent Koscielny are expected to be back in good health for the match.
Long-term absentees Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck still remain out of contention for selection for the away team.
For the home team, there is some good news with Jonathan Hogg and Erik Durm back in training after injuries, along with Chris Lowe who has recovered from illness.
Not such good news for them, however, is winger Isaac Mbenza’s calf muscle tear which will reportedly keep him out for up to six weeks.
New loan signing Denis Suarez’s career in an Arsenal shirt admittedly didn’t get off to the best start after he failed to make much of an impact from the bench against City, but this can’t be held against him as the game was effectively over. Emery has said that the midfielder has put in extra effort this week and was “improving every day”, and is hoping that his new signing can get off to a proper start this weekend.
Another player hoping for his first full-start is striker Karlan Grant, who came in off the bench last week for Huddersfield in the 5-0 loss to Chelsea. With Siewert’s side having such goal scoring woes, there’s perhaps a lot of pressure resting on Grant to make an impact.
Plenty of this article has been about Huddersfield’s lack of quality this season, but ultimately, this match may be more important for Arsenal – it is a must-win.
Hudderfield’s confidence is dire – they currently have the longest winless streak in England’s top 4 tiers (12 matches, 11 losses and 1 draw). A slip-up in this match may prove pivotal at the end of the season with 6 teams still in contention for only Champions League positions.
Arsenal travel to the John Smith’s Stadium to face up against Huddersfield Town in the Premier League on Saturday the 9th of February, with kick-off scheduled for 3PM local time.