Are Arsenal playing their strongest team?
Arsene Wenger should be playing his best possible XI in the run-in to secure a top four finish
The Gunners are still just ahead of Tottenham Hotspur in the league table but their north London rivals have an extra game to play, albeit against the other top four contenders Chelsea.
With Arsenal’s main striker Olivier Giroud on the side-lines due to a suspension after his red card against Fulham, Arsene Wenger has a tough decision of who to deploy up front.
Both Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski have expressed their desire to play down the middle and in the last two matches Wenger granted the German his wish when he elected to play Podolski as main striker against Manchester United. The Germany international failed to impress against the champions and also against QPR on the weekend - he was substituted at Loftus Road.
Should Wenger opt for Walcott a front spot start? The winger is Arsenal’s top goal scorer this season and apart from his blistering pace the England international has shown that he can finish clinically. He has however struggled against deep-lying defences and this will be slightly troubling for Wenger.
Nevertheless, here’s who I deem worthy of a starting spot in the last remaining matches to give the Gunners the best chance of securing Champions League football next term.
Goalkeeper: Wojcech Szczesny
The Pole put on a decent display against the League champions last week making several crucial saves and was solid again at QPR. Szczesny will be looking to impress Wenger to secure his position as first-choice stopper.
Right back: Carl Jenkinson
Bacary Sagna has been very inconsistent recently and had it not been for the Frenchman’s blunders last week, Arsenal might’ve bagged three points against United. Jenkinson has been far more effective in attack with good passing and crossing. He has also tidied up his defensive game and deserves a starting berth.
Centre back: Per Mertesacker
The lanky German has settled in well in English football this season and despite his lack of pace, he looks solid at the back and is essential in defending set pieces with his 6’6” frame.
Centre back: Laurent Koscielny
Where Mertesacker lacks speed, Koscielny more than makes up for it as he is one of the fastest in the league. Together the two form a solid partnership at the back and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Left back: Kieran Gibbs
The England international is one of the Arsenal youngsters with the most potential. He seems to be gaining confidence with every game he plays and although his competitor for the starting spot, Nacho Monreal, has proved a good buy, I would still like to see Gibbs on the left.
Defensive midfield: Mikel Arteta
Although Arteta isn’t a natural holding midfielder, the Spaniard has enjoyed a good season. He is like a general in the middle of the park for the Gunners, showing good leadership and organisational skills. His passing has been outstanding and he is constantly motivating his teammates.
Central midfield: Santi Cazorla
The little Spaniard has been Arsenal’s best player this season. His creativity in the middle of Arsenal’s ranks has proved vital this season. He has the ability to create something out of nothing and his accurate passing has led to many Arsenal goals. He is also a formidable striker of the ball off either foot.
Central midfield: Jack Wilshere
The young man could become Arsenal’s skipper as soon as next season. Although he has been somewhat below par after recovering from his ankle injury, Wilshere looked to be back to his best against Man United when he replaced Tomas Rosicky in the second half last week. He is a keen leader and will be key to Arsenal’s run-in.
Right wing: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Whenever the youngster comes on as a substitute he makes an immediate difference on the pitch. His pace, trickery and ball control can only add value to the Gunners’ attack and I think ‘Ox’ deserves 90 minutes on the wing to show Wenger what he’s capable of.
Left wing: Lukas Podolski
The German would like to play down the middle but I still think he is best deployed on the left. He has showed that he can provide the main striker with vital balls from the wing and if he finds the ball at his feet in or near the box he has a devastating strike that has beaten many keepers over the course of the season.
Striker: Theo Walcott
It is no accident that Walcott is Arsenal’s top scorer and he has shown that he is capable of finishing cleanly under pressure. His form did take a dip after signing his new contract at the Emirates, but his goals against United and QPR which secured four vital points for the Gunners, shows Walcott knows how to find the goal when it’s needed. Walcott’s biggest issue is consistency – one week he has a brilliant game and the next he goes missing with long quiet spells; but with limited options in attack, I believe Wenger should put his faith in the 24-year-old.
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