Arsenal are set to face a toug run stretching from this weekend to the next one. A visit from Serie A leaders Napoli sandwiched between trips to Liberty Stadium and the Hawthorns. While the Liberty Stadium is a difficult place to go, Napoli are dangerous visitors to host at this time. Arsenal won at Swansea last season, that might be the necessary encouragement we need to repeat the feat tomorrow.
The dilemma facing Wenger is the choice of players as he needs to put out a very strong squad for both matches to stand a decent chance of winning. The team is currently short in some positions not down to lack of personnel but unfair blow of injuries. In attacking midfield, despite been spoilt for choice, we are currently light weight with Chamberlain, Rosicky and Cazorla out.
On the wings, we are also very light weight. No Walcott, Chamberlain, Rosicky, Cazorla and Podolski. None of these injured players has any chance no matter how slim of returning against Napoli so we have to make do with the ones in our limited pool.
Academy players that may be considered.
From these limited resources, Wenger has to fashion out a team that is capable of securing maximum points from both matches. Let’s analyse them.
Goalkeeper – we have no problem here. Szczesny should be able to make both matches. Goalkeepers rarely have issues of fatigue.
Right back – I will go for Sagna in both matches. We need his experience to handle Swansea and Napoli. He didn’t play midweek so he should be ready to play two matches on the bounce. He can rest again next weekend when we play West Brom. Jenkinson should be able handle to them.
Left back – Gibbs should play both matches. Like Sagna, he had a deserved rest so should be ready for 2 straight games in 4 days.
Center back – this is where Wenger might need to rotate a bit. All 3 are good enough to play both matches. Against Swansea, I would like to see the central defence that played in mid week play again and restore Koscielny back to the line-up against Napoli with Vermaelen dropping down to the bench.
Defensive midfield duo – between the trio of Flamini, Ramsey and Arteta, Wenger will have to choose 2. The duo of Flamini and Ramsey have held forte for most of the games this season and we have won all with Ramsey scoring many goals. It will be important to keep the synergy going but we cannot discountenance Arteta’s importance to the team as well. He is intelligent and experienced. I will go for Flamini and Ramsey tomorrow while against Napoli, Flamini and Arteta should start with Ramsey coming in, in the twilight of the game. His nose for goal could prove vital in the dying stages of the the match when Napoli’s players must have started tiring out.
Attacking midfield – there isn’t much option open to Wenger. With only Ozil and Wilshere fit and 3 roles to fill. My suggestion is that Ozil takes the role behind the striker while Wilshere operates from the left. Gnabry can handle the right wing. I don’t expect Ozil and Wilshere to play the entire 90 minutes. At some point, they should go off for Esfield and Miyachi.
Striker – the obvious answer is Giroud. He is the only fit and experienced stirker that we have. Bendtner is too unfit and match rusty to be saddled with the responsibility of getting the goals while Chuba Akpom is too inexperienced to start. I don’t expect him to play 90 minutes, Wenger will take him off with 15 minutes to
go if Arsenal are comfortably in the lead. I would rather see Akpom come in for him. He is fit and sharp unlike Bendtner who is so rusty.