Arsenal take on Swansea City in Wales on Saturday after a two week absence from the Premier League.
They Gunners have struggled away from home of late but this weekend presents a good opportunity to catch up on their rivals. Chelsea have a tough matchup against Leicester City, while Manchester City face seventh placed Everton. In the marquee matchup of the weekend, Manchester United and Liverpool compete on Sunday. A win will see Arsenal gain at least three points on one of their title challengers.
Arsenal will have to do it without a few key names. Hector Bellerin misses out with a persisting ankle injury, while Theo Walcott continues to struggle with a calf injury. Mesut Özil has returned to the squad after missing time out sick, and Danny Welbeck can be called up to the bench again having come through last weekend’s 15 minute cameo unscathed.
Arsene Wenger will have some tough choices to make up front with Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Lucas Perez, and Alex Iwobi firing on all cylinders. There isn’t space for all four, and at least one will likely find their selves on the bench.
The amount of attacking wealth Arsenal have at their disposal that includes a healthy Welbeck is exciting. More tough choices will have to be made when Walcott returns to fitness. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has improved this season, can’t be counted out either.
This is the second time this season that Swansea will face Arsenal in their new manager’s first game in charge. The Welsh club recently appointed Paul Clement after firing Bob Bradley a few weeks prior.
Here is Arsenal’s most probable starting lineup against Swansea City on Saturday.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Petr Cech starts in goal. David Ospina started Arsenal’s last match against Preston North End in the FA Cup.
Right Back – Gabriel
With Bellerin missing out, Gabriel starts at right back. The Brazilian played a few matches here a month ago when Bellerin was dealing with a similar ankle problem.
At the time, Carl Jenkinson had just been pulled out of the senior side after struggling in his return from a serious knee injury. Gabriel was called up as an emergency option and did well enough to be considered as a viable backup at right back.
Center Backs – Mustafi & Koscielny
Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny renew what has been a successful partnership to date. The squad has yet to lose a match with Mustafi in the starting lineup.
Koscielny returns to the lineup after missing last weekends match. Wenger held out his French defensive to star to give him a much-needed breather.
Left Back – Monreal
Nacho Monreal starts at left back. There was no word regarding the fitness of Kieran Gibbs, who has missed the past few matches with a knee injury. It’s safe to assume he will not be available.
Monreal is likely to see an extended run in the side during at time when Wenger would have liked to rotate his left backs.
Defensive Mid – Xhaka
Granit Xhaka starts at defensive mid with Francis Coquelin out injured and Mohamed Elneny away with Egypt at the African Nations Cup.
The Swiss international has made strides the past few months. His passing abilities have been an asset in the absence of Santi Cazorla. Additionally, his defensive skills have improved noticeably, which bodes well for his future at this position.
Central Mid – Ramsey
Aaron Ramsey starts next to Xhaka as the only other healthy central midfielder. The Welsh international has struggled to get his season going due to injuries. His thundering goal against Preston last weekend might have kicked started his season, though. Arsenal need a healthy and in form Ramsey.
Attacking Mid – Özil
Özil returns to the starting lineup having missed roughly three weeks out sick. Iwobi filled in for the German and performed very well. It’s clear this is the Nigerian’s best position.
Prior to his time out, Özil was struggling for form and maybe some rest is just what he needed. He might be a bit sluggish having been bed ridden for what sounded like more than a week, but his impact should be felt.
Wide Right – Alexis
With Giroud in such fine goal scoring form, Alexis will be pushed back out wide. This means that Perez is the odd man out.
Once Walcott returns to fitness, it will be interesting to see what Wenger views as his best front three. If it includes Walcott, it’s likely Alexis gets pushed back to striker, meaning Giroud would be on the bench once again.
Wide Left – Iwobi
Considering his excellent form in the center of the pitch during a time when Arsenal struggled, it’s hard to drop Iwobi from the squad. Although it’s clear number 10 is where he excels the most, Iwobi’s playmaking skills are still valuable from the left, as well.
Striker – Giroud
Signed a new contract. Check. Score four goals in as many games. Check. Score two match winners close to the end of 90-minutes. Check. Giroud is having himself a month. Wenger can’t drop him right now.