Arsenal plays Dinamo Zagreb at the Emirates Stadium Tuesday night in a do or die match.
A win and an Olympiakos loss against Bayern Munich will keep the Gunner’s Champions League hopes alive. Otherwise, Arsenal will have to fight for a place in the Europa League.
Aaron Ramsey will make a return to the squad but Arsenal’s injury concerns haven’t subsided. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will just miss out, while Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin were added to the injury list over the weekend.
Coquelin’s injury is especially concerning as the Frenchman will miss at least two months. In his absence, Ramsey, Jack Wilshere (when he is healthy), Mathieu Flamini, and Calum Chambers could only deputize as defensive midfielders.
Arsene Wenger indicated that he may use the January transfer window as an opportunity to bolster his midfield options, but admitted he could not guarantee anything due to the nature of the window.
Wenger will be disappointed that he won’t be able to rotate his squad. Joel Campbell may come into the team in an attempt to rest Alexis, although Campbell’s high profile miss against West Brom on Saturday will have done nothing to convince the manager.
Despite the boss’s selection limitations, this is really a game that Arsenal should win. Here is Arsenal’s most likely starting lineup on Tuesday.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Although David Ospina is healthy, it’s likely that Petr Cech continues playing in the Champions League, despite the fact that Wenger likes using his second choice keeper in cup matches.
The significance that this match has on Arsenal’s season should mean that Cech keeps his place in the team.
Right Back – Bellerin
Hector Bellerin looked a shell of himself on Saturday. He played like a player returning from injury and his performances will improve in each match the next few weeks.
Center Backs – Mertesacker and Koscielny
Neither Per Mertesacker nor Laurent Koscielny played well on Saturday. Mertesacker’s two weeks rest robbed him of his sharpness and improvement is expected with a run of games. Koscielny may still be recovering mentally from the atrocities committed in Paris and a run of him games could do him good. Like Mertesacker and Bellerin, Koscielny’s performances should improve with a run of games.
Left Back – Monreal
Nacho Monreal did not have the best of games on Saturday, much like the rest of the back four. Look for Monreal to bounce back against Dinamo Zagreb.
Defensive Mid – Flamini
Flamini has been a peripheral member of the squad this season and the next few weeks are an opportunity for the French international to reassert his importance to the squad.
The loss of Coquelin is significant but the team must respond to adversity. Teams worthy of titles are able to evolve and overcome adversity.
Center Mid – Cazorla
Santi Cazorla will want to quickly put his penalty woe behind him and put in a quality performance on Tuesday.
Coquelin’s loss increases the Spaniard’s defensive responsibilities. His form could dictate the way the midfield functions for the next two months.
Attacking Mid – Özil
Mesut Özil continued his extraordinary streak of assists. He created a new Premier League record in the process by extending his streak to seven assists in seven matches. He was the one bright spot on Saturday as he created chances on a consistent basis.
The German playmaker was unlucky not to draw the Gunners level on Saturday when his low shot hit the outside of the post in the 48th minute.
Expect Özil to put in a standout performance on Tuesday.
Right Wing – Alexis
Ideally, Wenger would like to rest Alexis in this match. Alexis returned to London on Thursday after playing twice for Chile last week. He looked sharp and energetic on Saturday, but two days rest between matches is going to catch up to Alexis very soon.
Unfortunately, Oxlade-Chamberlain is not fit enough to play in this match and Wenger is hesitant to start Ramsey so soon after returning to training on Monday.
The manager will be tentative to start Campbell and Kieran Gibbs together as it would prove to be a winger pairing devoid of creativity and goal scoring potential. Therefore, Alexis must play.
Left Wing – Gibbs
Gibbs was given a surprise start on the left wing on Saturday and performed admirably. He proved to be an adequate outlet on the left and broke behind West Brom’s backline on a few occasions. His performance warrants another look on Tuesday and should keep Campbell out of the squad.
Striker – Giroud
Olivier Giroud put in a zealous performance on Saturday and scored a well-taken goal from a Özil free kick. He wasn’t presented many other opportunities and found himself to be isolated throughout the match after he scored.
The last time Arsenal and Dinamo Zagreb played, Giroud was foolishly sent off in the 40th minute. Tuesday could be a redemptive match for the Frenchman.
Wenger must be looking forward to the return of Theo Walcott, not because Giroud is in bad form, but because Giroud could be on the brink of a burnout. For now, Giroud should be okay to play consecutive matches throughout the week. However, by Christmas, the run of matches could catch up to the Frenchman. Luckily, Walcott is due to return right before then.
In the meantime, Giroud must keep up his excellent goal scoring form.
Via – Lineup Builder