Arsenal face Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. The Gunners have yet to score a goal at home, and haven’t done so since May. Arsenal have performed well against Stoke at home in the past, and this may be the match where they get out of their scoring funk
Arsene Wenger will be pleased with how the international break went, considering that all his players who represented their countries are returning in good health. Laurent Koscielny could feature after missing time with France due to a back injury. Per Mertesacker should return to the lineup for the first time in two matches after falling ill.
There was some bad news though as Wenger revealed that Jack Wilshere suffered a setback in his recovery from a stress fracture. It was hoped that Wilshere would be available after international break but Wenger revealed that Wilshere was not progressing as well as had been hoped.
We may see a lineup shakeup this weekend. It’s possible that Wenger drops Olivier Giroud and moves Alexis to the striking position. This would see Mesut Özil move to left, Aaron Ramsey slot in midfield, and find space for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right.
Giroud was booed off the field for France against Serbia after missing a couple of chances. Wenger could choose to make these changes if he fears Giroud is suffering from a confidence crisis and in an attempt to get his best players on the field.
Arsenal has an away match in the Champions League against Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday, followed by an away match versus Chelsea on Saturday. A lineup change this weekend would indicate what we could expect in the next two matches.
Here is Arsenal’s probable lineup against Stoke City:
Goalkeeper – Cech
Petr Cech’s experience and value will show in the next month with some big matches coming up.
Right Back – Bellerin
Mathieu Debuchy revealed he considered leaving Arsenal this past month after being left out of the starting lineup against Chelsea in the Community Shield. That seems like a bit of rash comment to make, and to some, it may show a lack of fight in the Frenchman.
It’s understandable that Debuchy wants to be starting, considering he was brought to the club last season with the vision that he would be starting. A starting place for France at Euro 2016 in France is at stake and you would imagine that rather than complaining, Debuchy would be fighting for his place. He hasn’t done that, or at least that he deserves to start in the matches that he has appeared in recently. This is why Hector Bellerin will continue to start.
Center Backs – Mertesacker & Koscielny
There are still some doubts about Koscielny’s availability over the weekend but there does seem to be some optimism surrounding his injury. If he is available, he will rejoin Mertesacker in the heart of the defense.
Gabriel performed admirably in both Koscielny and Mertesacker’s absence. His performances were encouraging enough to show that Arsenal has adequate depth at center back and that perhaps Koscielny and Mertesacker should be concerned about their first team status in the long term.
Left Back – Monreal
Kieran Gibbs must be wondering what he can do to get back into the squad. Nacho Monreal has been performing consistently well since last November. His added aggressiveness in defense is serving him well.
Defensive Mid – Coquelin
Francis Coquelin was voted as Arsenal’s Player of the Month for the month of August. It is deserved considering he was Arsenal’s most consistent performer over the first four games of the season.
Central Mid – Cazorla
There has been a lot of talk about how other players in the squad need to step up and contribute more goals. Players lake Oxlade-Chamberlain and Özil have been primarily mentioned, but not many people are mentioning Santi Cazorla.
Cazorla scored seven goals in the league last year but almost all of them came from penalties. For a player who is so technically gifted, it is baffling to see him finish so poorly, so often.
Cazorla scored 12 goals in his first season with Arsenal. Since then, it seems that you’d have to convince him that scoring is an important part of soccer. If there is one player who can step up in the goal scoring department, it’s Cazorla.
Attacking Mid – Ramsey
Ramsey will move into an advanced central role. This shift will see Özil move out wide. Ramsey is more of a goal scoring threat through the middle of the park.
Wide Right – Oxlade-Chamberlain
Oxlade-Chamberlain played the full 90-minutes for England against Switzerland and performed well. It’s not surprising to have seen him on the bench for Arsenal considering the caliber of players ahead of the Ox in the pecking order. Having said that, Oxlade-Chamberlain has been Arsenal’s most dangerous player so far this season.
He scored a well-taken goal against Chelsea in the Community Shield and another one against Newcastle last weekend, although that was later ruled an own goal.
Wenger needs to find a way to get Oxlade-Chamberlain in the squad and dropping Giroud, who hasn’t looked his best, seems like the most obvious way to do so.
Wide Left – Özil
Wenger may be criticized for pushing Özil out wide, but Özil does play on the left for Germany, and does so effectively. The German will still be a force out on the left and will have the freedom to roam where he wants.
The only concern about this selection is that Özil may be a defensive liability on the wing. Cazorla and Monreal will have to make up for this.
Striker – Alexis
Giroud will be dropped in favor of Alexis to add an element of unpredictability to Arsenal’s attack. Arsenal is very predictable with Giroud up front, and although Giroud plays his role very well, Arsenal looks like the need a small shake up. If Wenger wants to go with this lineup in the Champions League or against Chelsea, he will likely want to see how is squad perform first.
Giroud is a very effective substitute and he has shown that time and time again. Arsenal may miss Alexis’s work ethic on the flank, especially in defense, but he is likely to make center backs panic more than Giroud.