Arsenal travel to the Britannia on Saturday to battle old foes Stoke City for our fifth games in fourteen days. The main talking point will be whether Arsene Wenger will need to rotate the squad slightly after a number of tough fixtures, but in certain areas he has little choice such as at the back and in midfield.
The team news is a bit of a worry with Nacho Monreal injured and Kieran Gibbs facing a late test, same with Laurent Koscielny whose achilles is still a problem. The expected return of Mathieu Debuchy is a huge boost as it will also allow Calum Chambers to shift centrally to cover for Koscielny. But the France international right back will not be ready until Tuesday.
Wojciech Szczesny trained today and is expected to slot straight back into the starting lineup despite the good form of Emiliano Martinez. If Wenger opts for the Argentine it won’t be of a particular concern however.
Gibbs will replace Monreal after the Englishman trained today and should Koscielny miss the tie we will see Hector Bellerin come in at right back with Chambers switching centrally. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.
Mathieu Flamini will continue at centre midfield after a solid but reserved performance against Southampton, while his partner Aaron Ramsey will hope he can rediscover some of his spark at the Britannia, the ground where he horrifically got Shawcrossed four years ago.
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Alexis Sanchez is undroppable at present, while he wasn’t on top form against Southampton like many of his fellow Arsenal forwards, he came up with the clinical finish to win us all three points.
He needs a rest but it’s proven difficult to do so. Wenger knows his star forward is ‘running in the red’ but will likely squeeze one more game out of the Chilean before affording him a rest against Galatasaray next week with qualification secured.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain certainly wasn’t on the top of his game against his former club but will be hoping for another start this weekend. It most likely means Danny Welbeck will be offered a rest. Personally I’d like to see Alexis through the middle with The Ox and Welbeck on either wing, but Cazorla will likely be offered another start despite a sloppier performance on Wednesday.
How about that Tomas Rosicky guy? Oh why do I even bother..
Regardless of Wenger easing Olivier Giroud into regular first team football, after his impressive cameo on Wednesday night it’s likely he will lead the line against Stoke to add some much needed physicality up front. We may even see Lukas Podokski come on for a bit.
Here is the predicted lineup:
Chambers Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
Ox Cazorla Alexis
Who do you think will start tomorrow? Share your thoughts below..