Friday, 22 November 2013

Two places available in Arsenal's starting 11 but who will Wenger pick?

Morning Gooners.

At last we're on the cusp of getting back to the Home of Football to see our beloved Arsenal in action. And I for one cannot wait.

The team news is fairly good. None of the players on international duty have returned with injuries which are going to keep them out of the squad to face Southampton.

We'll have Theo Walcott back in the squad  It will be great to have him as an option as we've certainly missed last season's top scorer for the club. He offers us a variety which we've lacked in recent weeks, especially as he's been out at the same time as we've also had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski on the treatment table.

With Walcott back in contention for a place in the starting line up, it will mean more competition for places. A headache for the manager, but overall it puts us in a better position. We've not struggled to cope without the England international because results would suggest otherwise, but we're certainly to my mind a better team with him available.

I would have no concern with putting Walcott straight back into the starting line-up. The England international would be one of the three front players who were first on the team sheet. The others being Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud. It leaves the manager with a choice over whether to play Santi Cazorla or Tomas Rosicky on the left. I think he'll probably prefer the Spaniard because the Czech international has missed training in the past week through illness and is to face a fitness test today.

At Old Trafford, Mathieu Flamini picked up his fifth yellow card of the season meaning he'll be out of tomorrow's game with an automatic one match suspension. It means Arsene Wenger will have to pick two of three players (Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta or Jack Wilshere) to play in the deep midfield roles. And I suspect the Frenchman will opt for the first two.

Providing everyone in our defence returns from international duty fit and well, I'd expect us to revert to our usual back four of Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Kieran Gibbs, in front of Wojciech Szczesny in goal.

I don't expect there to be a lot of goal on Saturday. I'd take a 1-0 now, just to get us back on a winning run. Southampton won't be a pushover. They're not third in the league as a fluke. They're there on merit.

But if we turned up as focused as we've been for most of the season, we should take all three points.

If you fancy a bit of extra reading this morning, check out this interview with Santi Cazorla in The Guardian.

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