Chatter surrounding Aston Villa on Wednesday suggested Leon Bailey could not only feature at Arsenal on Friday night but perhaps make his first start for the club.
According to BirminghamLive’s Ashley Preece, Bailey was “back in training, back popping in goals at Bodymoor & sending keepers to the shops with that foot-roll.”
Preece also pointed out that Bailey’s Instagram had a story featuring highlights from training with the words “Loading.” Read into that what you may, but it appears the Jamaican is in contention to play at Arsenal.
Manager Dean Smith had said last Friday that he hoped Bailey would return to training this week, and that’s indeed what’s happened. If the winger is indeed fit, Smith is tasked with fitting him into the lineup.
After last week’s disastrous defeat to Wolves at home, Smith may be inclined to move away from the 3-5-2 that he’s employed since the Chelsea loss in mid-September. If that’s the direction the gaffer goes in, expect Bailey to play as a left winger in a front three.
Whether Smith goes with a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, Bailey will have opportunities to pressure high on the left side and create goal-scoring opportunities. His inclusion could spark struggling forward Ollie Watkins as well.
Smith will have already looked at Crystal Palace’s success high pressing Arsenal in a 2-2 draw at the Emirates last week and could seek to replicate the Eagles’ shape and tactics. If he does, Bailey will certainly play a part, whether that be as a starter or–as the gaffer refers to subs himself–a finisher.