Friday, 29 November 2013

Wenger should bench Ozil and use the British core against Cardiff

Morning Gooners.

It's Cardiff away tomorrow - a fixture I'm unable to attend due to insufficient away credits - but a match which is vital we take points from to continue our winning run. And it's a place where we can take all three points back to north London.

Malky Mackay team have won two (Swansea and Manchester City), drawn two (Manchester United and Everton) and lost two (Tottenham and Newcastle) at the Cardiff City stadium this season. So it's fair to say they raise their game against the top teams.

We should be under no illusions that this will be a tough fixture. But having only kept a clean sheet at home once in the league this season, we have every right to expect we'll score should we take the opportunities which will present themselves during the game.

The team news is good. Kieran Gibbs returns to the squad following the illness which prevented him from playing any part in Tuesday night's game with Marseille. We're still without Lucas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain plus the forgotten man of our squad Abou Diaby.

It should make the manager's team selection pretty easy. Wenger hasn't chosen to rush Theo Walcott back into the starting line up and I see no reason why that will change tomorrow. The England international only had 11 touches of the ball in the 18 minute cameo he made on his return to the team for the Champions League clash with Marseille. That follows the 25 minutes he was given in his comeback game from injury last weekend against his former club. On that occasion he only touched the ball six times.

I think this might be a game where we see Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta in the deep midfield roles. Wenger intended to use the pair against Crystal Palace until Flamini was forced to leave the pitch through injury and it is against more physical teams were the partnership between the two midfielders could be most productive.

That will then make Wenger's choice as to who he plays behind Olivier Giroud even more harder, given he has an embarrassment of riches with Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere to choose from if we are discounting a starting role for Walcott.

I wouldn't be surprised if Ozil was given a rest, not that I can see it happening for tomorrow's game. But we have seen our record signing substituted in his two previous games, something which hadn't happened since  he arrived from Real Madrid on transfer deadline day.

I think this could be a game where Wenger slots in Ramsey on the right and Wilshere on the left, alongside Rosicky in the middle behind Giroud. It would make the team more combative and give us the option of Ozil and Cazorla from the bench.

The goalkeeper and the defence picks itself. I think Gibbs will come back into the team for the excellent Nacho Monreal.

It is quite something where picking the starting 11 is so tough. Usually you can name the 11 players straight away, but this season there is always an argument for who to include and who to bench.

Something we can say though is that we've got options and that is not something that can be said in previous seasons. 

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