Arsene Wenger has plenty of thinking to do ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup clash with Middlesbrough. We cannot afford to take the Championship outfit lightly but equally need to manage the side after both the North London derby and Leicester win taking a lot out of the squad.
Wojciech Szczesny is currently second in the pecking order behind David Ospina and is our ‘Cup ‘keeper’ at present. After the nervy win over Brighton late last month, the Poland international must take this opportunity to attempt to win back his place.
In defence we could see a debut for Gabriel Paulista – but on the right hand side of the defence. Wenger will be keen to keep Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in the middle if the latter’s Achilles holds up – if not perhaps Gabriel will shift centrally allowing either of our 19-year-old defensive prodigies to fill in at right back. Kieran Gibbs seems certain for a start on the left to offer Nacho Monreal a rest; it’s hardly a step down considering the brilliant form of the Spaniard.
Francis Coquelin is a certain starter with Tomas Rosicky alongside. Santi Cazorla will most likely play ahead of the duo and can interchange with the Czech international. Mesut Ozil is certainly another candidate for the No10 but Cazorla has been the most consistent and has flourished at Emirates recently.
This is where it gets really tough. Wenger loves Ozil and he has been delivering on the left. But the German needs a rest, he’s continually playing 90 minutes when fit which is great generally but Wenger has too often run him into the ground. Still, it wouldn’t surprise if he were to start again.
Alexis is a doubt, so I’ve gone for Welbeck and Walcott on either wing; however, if Alexis is deemed fit then we will probably see Welbeck make way, while Ozil could play instead of Walcott. Bit of either/or, but it’s fantastic that we have such a range of options.
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Olivier Giroud will spearhead the attack after sitting out most of the Leicester win in midweek.
Here is the predicted lineup:
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