Arsenal: Predicted XI to face Cardiff City

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been left with a severely restricted squad to choose from for tomorrow afternoon's clash with Cardiff City at the Emirates Stadium, with a whole host of top stars ruled out following last weekend's winning efforts at Newcastle United.

The Gunners were already definitely without Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil as they both face at least a fortnight on the sidelines, but that relatively small list of casualties has grown considerably over the last 48 hours.

Olivier Giroud and Kieran Gibbs are definitely out of contention for the Cardiff match, with the French striker sidelined by an ankle problem, while Gibbs is nursing a calf complaint.

Gibbs would ideally be replaced by Nacho Monreal or club captain Thomas Vermaelen at a stretch, but both are also struggling through illness and will face late fitness checks tomorrow, leaving the possibility of Mathieu Flamini providing emergency cover at left-back.

Monreal is likely to be risked if close to fitness, while Vermaelen could also still start alongside Per Mertesacker in central defence if Wenger is unwilling to gamble on playing Laurent Koscielny twice in three days.

In attack Lukas Podolski and Nicklas Bendtner are competing to replace Giroud in a lone front role, with the German international probably the preferred option to make his first start since returning from a long-term injury layoff.

As if those issues weren't enough Wenger also has niggling doubts over Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere, which makes selecting his midfield five a mix of educated guess and pot luck.

Mikel Arteta and Flamini are both fit and primed to start in central midfield, while Santi Cazorla is a certain starter in one of the advanced midfield positions.

German youngster Serge Gnabry could be forced back into first-team action, although Wenger is probably more likely to use Podolski on the left flank and Bendtner in attack.

With an FA Cup third round tie with Tottenham Hotspur looming large this weekend Wenger faces a difficult balancing act managing a squad deprived of key players, but with their lead at the top of the Premier League table so slender three points against Cardiff is an absolute necessity.

Arsenal predicted XI to face Cardiff

Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Podolski, Bendtner

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