Arsenal make their first appearance at the London Stadium as they take on West Ham on Saturday. Both clubs are coming off disappointing EFL Cup exits on Wednesday and will look to rebound in the league.
Arsenal have the opportunity to gain points on the their top four rivals as Manchester City and Chelsea face each other earlier in the day. Arsenal sit in 4th, three points from the top but could find their selves in 2nd if results go their way by the end of Saturday.
The Gunners will have to do it without Santi Cazorla who has been ruled out for three months. The Spaniard is due to undergo surgery after weeks of rehabilitation on his injured Achilles did nothing to the inflammation Cazorla was experiencing.
In good news, Danny Welbeck returned to first team training for the first time since injuring a knee in May. Welbeck hopes to make a first team appearance before the turn year. Olivier Giroud will be available this week after sitting out the midweek EFL Cup loss to Southampton, as will Lucas Perez who made his return from injury a few days ago.
Arsene Wenger will have a choice to make yet again in central midfield. Francis Coquelin is likely to start but the manager will have to choose who partners the Frenchman. Aaron Ramsey was abysmal against Southampton and his form does not warrant a start. Mohamed Elneny is another option but he seems better equipped to play with a midfielder with a better passing acumen than Coquelin. That leaves Granit Xhaka as the obvious choice, although Wenger has refrained from making that decision for much of this year.
Here is Arsenal’s most probable starting lineup on Saturday.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Petr Cech starts in goal, taking over from Emi Martinez who started on Wednesday. Cech is looking for his fifth clean sheet of the season.
Right Back – Gabriel
Gabriel starts at right back as Wenger tries to sort out the best candidate to hold down this position until Hector Bellerin comes back. Carl Jenkinson played here on Wednesday but was thoroughly unconvincing, which is unfortunate because he’s the club’s only healthy right back.
Gabriel came on against Bournemouth to replace Mathieu Debuchy last weekend and was adequate. He doesn’t provide much going forward, but is more defensively sound than Jenkinson and seems like the safest option.
Center Backs – Mustafi & Koscielny
Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi start next to each other. While the partnership hasn’t shown many cracks, Mustafi is starting to make more noticeable mistakes and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Per Mertesacker rotate in the squad once healthy in January, as expected.
Left Back – Monreal
Nacho Monreal starts at left back, instead of Kieran Gibbs. Both players have played well, although neither have done anything to stand out this year. Monreal’s starting place is based on consistency and chemistry and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Arsenal dip into the transfer market this summer, or possibly this winter, to strengthen this area of the squad.
Defensive Mid – Coquelin
Coquelin starts at defensive mid and is clearly the managers preferred choice at this position. The difficult part is who partners Coquelin. Ramsey in past seasons hasn’t been convincing next to Coquelin, while the Elneny – Coquelin pairing has proven to be flat. That leaves Xhaka, who is the team’s most accomplished deep passer, as the obvious choice.
It’s also possible Wenger will try Xhaka and Ramsey next to each other, leaving Coquelin out of the side.
Central Mid – Xhaka
Xhaka starts next to Coquelin for the aforementioned reasons. Ramsey is a Wenger favorite but his form hasn’t been great and his poor performance on Wednesday means Ramsey does not warrant a start this weekend.
Arsenal have played well with Xhaka in the side, but his opportunities have come and gone. Wenger seems reluctant to start Xhaka consistently, possibly due to his disciplinary record. Eventually the manager will have to come to terms with the fact that Arsenal tick with Xhaka on the field. He is an excellent passer from deep and like Cazorla, looks to keep the ball moving fast and forward.
Attacking Mid – Özil
Mesut Özil starts at the number 10 position. Özil, Xhaka, and Alexis seem to have a good understanding, and the movement of both Alexis and Özil compliment Xhaka well.
Wide Right – Walcott
Theo Walcott starts on the right and is targeting his 10th goal of the season in all competitions. The Englishman’s goal scoring form is encouraging and he’s provided Arsenal with a much-needed third scoring option in addition to Alexis and Giroud.
Wide Left – Oxlade-Chamberlain
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starts on the left. Alex Iwobi started here on Wednesday and played well.
Iwobi is coming off a run of so-so form and Oxlade-Chamberlain started Arsenal’s last league match and played well. Wenger will look to give Oxlade-Chamberlain a run in the squad while providing Iwobi opportunities while he can. With the busy Christmas schedule coming up, expect both to play a larger role.
Striker – Alexis
Alexis starts up front with Perez and Giroud finding places on the bench. Giroud missed Wednesday’s match with a groin injury so it would be surprising to see him start this weekend. Regardless, Alexis is the in form striker and by and far the best one in the squad. As long as he is healthy, Giroud will be on the bench, and Perez and Welbeck will find more opportunities out wide.
Via – Lineup Builder