Arsenal take on Stoke City at the Emirates on Saturday. This is usually a feisty and close affair with neither teams liking each other, but Stoke have failed to win at the Emirates in nine consecutive attempts.
Arsenal are coming off two comprehensive wins last week. They started the weekend with a 5-1 win over West Ham thanks to a stunning performance by Alexis Sanchez. They finished the week with a 4-1 win over Basel that included a Lucas Perez hat trick and secured a top place group finish for the first time in is seasons.
With the Gunners coming off a high, they’ll look to continue their streak in a matchup they’ve dominated at home.
The Gunners’ form is largely due to the depth at every position in the squad. Arsene Wenger now has some tough choices to make with Perez showing his worth, while Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Alex Iwobi all vying for the same position. In defense, Rob Holding showed his potential, and Gabriel and Kieran Gibbs are reminding the manager of their quality. It’s even more condense in midfield with Mohamed Elneny, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, and Granit Xhaka all competing for two places.
To further the argument of Arsenal’s depth, reinforcements are coming with Hector Bellerin back in training, and Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck a few weeks away from a first team return. The only long-term absentees at this point are Mathieu Debuchy, who should be back in a month, and Santi Cazorla, who faces about three months out.
Depth is nothing to complain about though, especially when your next match is two day’s after your previous one. That will be the case come Tuesday when Arsenal play Everton at Goodison Park. The quick turnaround means Wenger is likely to use the full breadth of his squad and rotate at a few positions.
Here’s Arsenal’s most likely lineup against Stoke City on Saturday.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Petr Cech starts in goal, replacing David Ospina, who started between the sticks midweek.
Right Back – Gabriel
Wenger said that Bellerin would face a fitness test before Saturday to determine his availability. Considering the Spaniard returned to training early this week, it seems a long shot he’ll be available on Saturday. Tuesday seems like a more realistic target for Bellerin to return.
Gabriel will continue at right back in the mean time. Although, the Brazilian is a center back, he’s performed surprisingly well at right back.
Center Backs – Mustafi & Koscielny
Shkodran Mustafi returns to the side to partner Laurent Koscielny after yielding to Holding, who impressed midweek.
Left Back – Monreal
Nacho Monreal starts at left back, although, Gibbs is making a big case for more playing time. The Englishman has been the model of consistency when called upon this season. His last match came on Tuesday where Gibbs played a role in three of Arsenal’s four goals.
Monreal has had a firm grasp on the starting role the past two seasons, but it wouldn’t be crazy if we saw some sort of time share between him and Gibbs as the season moves forward.
Defensive Mid – Xhaka
Wenger will stick with the midfield that played so well on Tuesday. That means Xhaka will occupy the role usually occupied by Coquelin. The selection will be made with next Tuesday’s match in mind where a more defensive midfield base will be required.
Central Mid – Ramsey
Ramsey keeps his starting place this weekend and partners Xhaka. Although this is a less defensive midfield pairing, it seems like the right one against a Stoke side who usually sit back at the Emirates. They duo should still be wary of getting caught out too far up field.
Coquelin should return to the side Tuesday and will likely replace Ramsey. That change provide Arsenal with more defensive cover from midfield.
Attacking Mid – Özil
Mesut Özil starts at the number 10. The German playmaker had a good week, scoring and assisting once against West Ham, and laying off an assist for Iwobi to finish a typical Arsenal goal. Özil will look to make it three excellent games in a row.
Wide Right – Walcott
Although Perez made a clear shout for another start with his hat trick on Tuesday, Walcott will come into the squad. Perez just returned from a six-week layoff and Wenger will likely use him on Tuesday instead.
The predicament Wenger will have with who plays on the wing on a per game basis will be an interesting one to watch and he’ll likely go with the in-form players at the time. Although that would be Perez right now, fitness will prevent that.
Wide Left – Oxlade-Chamberlain
Oxlade-Chamberlain starts on the left where he has really excelled the past two weeks. His run of games shouldn’t be interrupted and Wenger should involve him as much as possible.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is starting to play like he believes he belongs amongst the Premier League’s best.
Striker – Alexis
Alexis starts at striker because how can you keep him out of the squad right now. For the first time in his career on Tuesday, Alexis seemed content, maybe even happy, with being substituted.
His club was 4-0 ahead at that point.
Via – Lineup Builder