Arsenal take on Middlesbrough in a home matchup this Saturday. The Gunners have won seven games on the trot, and are in good shape to make it eight.
The London side dismantled Ludogorets Razgard in the Champions League on Wednesday with a 6-0 win. Mesut Özil bagged a hat trick, Lucas Perez came off the bench to provide two assists, and Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Alexis all chipped in a goal apiece.
On the eve of his 67th birthday, Arsene Wenger revealed the team news. Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud are set to miss another match, although Giroud could be back for Tuesday’s League Cup game against Reading. Ramsey might have a chance against Sunderland next weekend.
Although he wasn’t mentioned in the manager’s team news briefing, there is some concern Santi Cazorla could miss out. The Spanish midfielder was substituted before the 60th minute mark on Wednesday and was seen icing his Achilles on the bench. Cazorla had issues with his Achilles last year, and combined with a knee injury, missed most of the season.
Here is Arsenal’s most probable starting lineup versus Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Petr Cech starts in goal, taking over from David Ospina who performed exceptionally against Ludogorets. Although the score might not suggest it, Ludogorets had a few good chances in the 1st half, all of which were dealt with well by Ospina.
Right Back – Bellerin
Hector Bellerin starts at right back. He should be rotated out on Tuesday, allowing Carl Jenkinson to gain some match fitness.
Center Backs – Mustafi & Koscielny
Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny make up the middle of Arsenal’s defense. The duo was again in good form during the week. Both were responsible for two errors that directly led to goal chances in the 1st half, however, they solidified in the 2nd half.
Left back – Monreal
Nacho Monreal comes back into the squad for Kieran Gibbs. The English left back played well but with Monreal in good form, it’s hard to see Gibbs’s appearance on Wednesday as enough to usurp the Spaniard.
Defensive Mid – Coquelin
Francis Coquelin starts again. The Frenchman returned from injury this past week and was in excellent form on Wednesday. With Granit Xhaka suspended the next three matches, Coquelin has an opportunity to solidify his starting place once again.
Central Mid – Elneny
Mohamed Elneny starts in place of Cazorla. Wenger will take caution with Cazorla, considering how quickly they took him off on Wednesday. The Achilles is sensitive, and after Cazorla’s injury last year, it seems best to allow the Spaniard time to fully recover.
Although Elneny lacks the technical skills of Cazorla, he is an excellent passer, has good movement, and reads the field well. The drop off in quality is minimal.
Attacking Mid – Özil
Özil notched his first assist of the season and the first hat trick of his career on Wednesday. The German playmaker has showed a scoring touch that’s been missing throughout his Arsenal career. While his assist numbers are down, he’s still creating for his teammates. This could be the best phase of his career.
Wide Right – Walcott
Theo Walcott scored yet again on Wednesday, this time with thumping curling effort outside the box.
Wide Left – Iwobi
Alex Iwobi returns to the starting lineup in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain. Ox played well in the second half but was shaky to start the game. He’s close to pushing for more regular starting minutes, but the way Iwobi has been playing, it’s hard to drop him. Expect these two to rotate more regularly in the coming weeks.
Striker – Alexis
Although Perez is on Alexis’ heels for a start, the Chilean’s form as a striker and overall impact on the team means it’s difficult to give Perez minutes. Giroud will find the same problem upon his return, as well.
Via – Lineup Builder