Arsenal take on 10th placed Burnley on Sunday at the Emirates. The two sides met in October with Arsenal coming away winners thanks to a contentious last minute goal that hit Laurent Koscielny’s hand on the way.
This weekend is an opportunity for Arsenal to pick up points on Manchester City and/or Tottenham as both play each other late on Saturday. The opportunity that Arsenal have in front of them isn’t lost on the players as pointed out by Granit Xhaka who claimed Arsenal’s next three games could define their season.
Arsenal will welcome back Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin – both of whom missed last week with injuries. Kieran Gibbs has also returned to fitness and is likely to feature on the bench. Unfortunately, Theo Walcott will miss another match but could be available again in eleven days versus Watford. There is some good news on Per Mertesacker, who recently returned to training after having his contract extended a year. The German could be back in contention in a few weeks.
Here is Arsenal’s most probable lineup versus Burnley on Sunday.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Petr Cech starts in goal. He’ll look to keep a second consecutive clean sheet.
Right Back – Bellerin
Bellerin returns to the squad, meaning Gabriel finds a place back on the bench. The Spaniard has been struggling with an ankle problem the past two months. His recent spell on the sidelines should have hopefully solved any fitness issues, though.
Bellerin’s ability to get forward is invaluable and Arsenal are a much different team with him in the starting lineup.
Center Backs – Mustafi & Koscielny
Shkodran Mustafi and Koscielny partner up in the center of Arsenal’s defense. The two have formed a formidable pairing and regardless of which center backs are fit, they will be the first choice.
Left Back – Monreal
With Gibbs available again, expect Nacho Monreal and him to rotate in and out of the squad. Monreal hasn’t been as consistent the past few months compared to seasons past and Gibbs deserves opportunities when they present themselves. But with Gibbs just back to fitness, Monreal will get the start this weekend.
Defensive Mid – Xhaka
Although Coquelin is available again, Xhaka will get start at defensive mid. Burnley haven’t performed well in their away matches and Arsenal will not necessarily need the physical presence of Coquelin in a match where Arsenal should dominate possession.
Xhaka possess both excellent passing and defensive skills, so the Gunners won’t be missing any physicality in the midfield with Coquelin. Xhaka’s partnership with Aaron Ramsey deserves some more time, as well.
Central Mid – Ramsey
Ramsey starts in midfield next to Xhaka. The Welsh international hasn’t been given a good run in the starting eleven because of injuries. However, his performance last weekend was encouraging and we’re starting to see Ramsey gain some form. Wenger will be hard pressed to drop him right now
Attacking Mid – Özil
Mesut Özil starts in the number 10 position. The German playmaker returned to the starting lineup last weekend after missing the past few matches with illness. He was rusty but effective enough. Expect an improved performance as Özil regains sharpness.
Wide Right– Iwobi
Alexi Iwobi starts on the right, keeping Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out of the side. Until Walcott returns to fitness, this should be the norm. At that point, Alexis will move back to striker, Iwobi back to the left, and Olivier Giroud to the bench.
Wide Left – Alexis
Alexis starts on the left. The Chilean was removed at the 80th minute last weekend with the match all but won. He was clearly unhappy at being removed but not too much should be read into that. Alexis is a competitive person and wants to play regardless of the score.
Striker – Giroud
Giroud starts at striker. The Frenchman has scored five in as many matches. Despite that, once Walcott returns to fitness, Giroud will find himself on the bench because Arsenal are a better side with Alexis leading the line. Additionally, Danny Welbeck will require some starting time, which could come from either the wing or at striker.