The beginning to the 2014/2015 season for Arsenal has been underwhelming to say the least. A flurry of injury problems combined with some players not being settled has seen Arsenal drop some crucial points in the first few games. After a bad game in Dortmund to open up the Champion’s League group stage, Arsenal’s mindset is something to worry about. To bounce back and get back in the mix of things, the Gunners will need a strong showing and three points this weekend against Villa, and this is the lineup that will get them there.
Goalkeeper – Wojeick Szczesny
Szczesny was one of the lone bright spots for Arsenal Tuesday in Dortmund. Granted, Dortmund seemed to have some trouble with their shot accuracy, but Szczesny came up big in a few instances when the game was still on the line. David Ospina has finally made his way into the reserves squad, but has yet to see any action with the first team. While that time may come, it will not be this weekend, and look for Szczesny to have another big game in a crucial matchup.
Right Back – Calum Chambers
With a huge injury to Mathieu Debuchy, Arsenal’s prototypical attacking right full back isn’t available. Hector Bellerin showed his pace against Dortmund, but also showed his youth and inexperience. While Chambers doesn’t possess that type of speed, he is surprisingly good moving forward in attack, and much less of a liability in defense. Chambers is going to be pushed into the fire sooner than expected, and will need to be huge for Arsenal this year to keep their Champion’s League appearance record intact.
Centre Backs – Koscielny and Mertesacker
The pair of Koscielny and Mertesacker has looked a little suspect in the last few games, and are still looking to get back to last year’s form. The depth of the backs is the biggest worry, as their only replacement is playing right back for the foreseeable future. This leaves Monreal as probably one of the most important players on the team, as he is the replacement for every defensive position. The two centre backs will look to stay healthy and have a good showing against Villa’s subpar attack this weekend to settle some of the nervous fans.
Left Back – Kieran Gibbs
Gibbs is back and healthy, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Like I mentioned earlier, Monreal is a huge piece to this Arsenal squad right now, and will need to be ready for whenever he is called upon, whether to give a spell of rest, or another unfortunate injury. Gibbs didn’t have his usual type of game getting forward against Dortmund, but will definitely look to regain his form against a lesser opponent in Villa.
Center Midfield – Mikel Arteta, Mesut Oezil, Aaron Ramsey
Arteta is back from injury, and will, like always, anchor down the Arsenal midfield. He didn’t look great against Dortmund, but nobody did. After an uncharacteristically bad passing display by Arteta on Tuesday, he will be out there trying to find his old form this weekend.
Ramsey also didn’t have a good showing, but is Arsenal’s most promising midfielder. With Wilshere on the sideline with another ankle injury, Ramsey will certainly have to be forced into a more defensive role, as no one else on the team is capable of playing that part. Mesut Oezil would greatly benefit from a day off or to play through the center again. With the injury to Jack though, Oezil should be given the chance to start in the middle, where he belongs.
If Oezil can shine in the middle like he is used to, maybe then Wenger can see his true potential, and use him like he should. Mesut has looked poor on the wing, and I think would love to see a chance in scenery to silence his critics.
Right Wing – Alexis Sanchez
Alexis shows game after game how great of a signing he was. He is one of the few players who gets so far forward in attack and races back to help the defense. He is a spark plug that brings all sorts of energy and pace to the squad. Once Walcott finally returns to the pitch, the pairing of him and Alexis will be very, very dangerous. Alexis will need to keep up his fine form while the rest of the team is in a slump. Sanchez has scored in his last few outings in the League, and will look to keep that up as well.
Left Wing – Santi Cazorla
Cazorla, who has been shown the bench in favor of Oezil the past few weeks, will be given a start this week and be expected to make a big impact. One thing that Arsenal has lacked is a presence down the left hand side, because Oezil is clearly not comfortable over there. I think Cazorla has shined while coming off the bench this season, and can be very impressive ahead of the newly returned Gibbs.
Forward – Danny Welbeck
Welbeck, who should have scored for Arsenal on Tuesday, will be out there trying to net his first Gunner goal this weekend. Welbeck saw a few good chances slip through his fingers against Dortmund and should be determined not to let that happen again. With Oliver Giroud being out until the New Year, Welbeck will be saddled with most of the forward responsibilities, and will need to take advantage of that. His goal scoring record with clubs doesn’t reflect his true skill, and Welbeck will tell you before anyone else how he wants that to change.