Arsenal predicted XI vs Sunderland as Smith Rowe, Salah-Eddine and Balogun start but Patino wait

Arsenal are riding a wave of momentum heading into their Carabao Cup quarter-final tie against Sunderland.

Questions were being asked of Mikel Arteta‘s side following three defeats in four at the hands of Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton – all of which had come away from home.

And whilst those results show there is still a long way to go before the Spaniard’s project yields the kind of results and performances that make the side a force to be reckoned with again, they have steadied the ship in recent weeks.

Victories over Southampton, West Ham United and Leeds United, whilst expected, were impressive and have left Arsenal in the top four of the Premier League table at Christmas.

Before resuming their quest for a Champions League return on Boxing Day, the Gunners are in Carabao Cup action tonight as Sunderland stand in the way of a semi-final appearance.

As the Premier League side, Arsenal will go into the game as overwhelming favourites to progress and in order to make it four wins in a row across all competitions, they simply need to avoid any complacency.

That is easier said than done of course, but under Arteta the Gunners have shown they are more than capable of winning the games they are expected to.

In fact, two of their three wins in the competition this season have come against teams outside the Premier League so they should be well prepared for the visit of the Black Cats.

Furthermore, Arteta’s decisions in the previous round may serve as a hint as to what lineup he will select.

Bernd Leno should return in between the sticks and make his first appearance since the round four win over Leeds United as he looks to keep Aaron Ramsdale on his toes.

Bernd Leno could start for Arsenal against Sunderland. (Image: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Bernd Leno could start for Arsenal against Sunderland. (Image: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Calum Chambers was the hero in the last round as he broke the deadlock within seconds of replacing Benjamin White and he could partner Rob Holding in central defence with Cedric Soares and Nuno Tavares at full-back.

Into midfield and there’s a big decision to be made.

With Albert Sambi Lokonga unavailable after testing positive for Covid-19 and Ainsley Maitland-Niles not spotted in the training pictures, there’s a chance of an Arsenal debutant tonight.

One would expect Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey to be rested with the Norwich City game in mind, and that would leave a massive whole alongside Mohamed Elneny that needs to be filled.

Having been spotted in conversation with Charlie Patino in training, naturally, there will be some Arsenal fans predicting a first-team breakthrough for the youngster.

But based on Salah-Eddine Oulad being named on the bench ahead of Patino against Leeds in the last round, that may show that he’s ahead of the midfielder in the pecking order and thus earning him a start alongside Elneny.

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In attack, Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah should get rare starts on the flanks as Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli put their feet up ahead of the trip to Carrow Road.

Emile Smith Rowe deserves to start having scored in his last two appearances off the bench, and he could lineup behind Folarin Balogun who will be desperate to show he can thrive at his level.

Arsenal predicted lineup vs Sunderland: Leno; Cedric, Chambers, Holding, Tavares; Salah-Eddine, Elneny; Pepe, Smith Rowe, Nketiah; Balogun

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