Coming into this vital and impassioned English Premier League clash, Arsene Wenger has many questions to answer of who to start for Arsenal against London rivals Chelsea, including whether or not to start Olivier Giroud.
Perhaps the most clear-cut decision that manager Arsene Wenger has to make coming into this match is the defence. Goalkeeper Peter Cech will most likely be accompanied by right-back Hector Bellerin, centre-backs Shokdran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny, and left-back Nacho Monreal. This consistent and stable back line will likely have their hands full with the attacking threats of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Willian, but surely are the right choices this weekend.
The Other Wing
Alexis Sanchez has been Arsenal’s key to success in recent seasons as when he flourishes so does Arsenal. There is no question that Alexis belongs on the left-wing and the number nine position is just not for him. The question then becomes who is placed on the right-wing.
Nigerian youngster Alex Iwobi is in great form at the moment, but Englishmen Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott are still very much in contention. Iwobi has the fearlessness to take on anybody and his recent stint of goals and assists suggest just that. The “Ox” is also a great option and if he can produce gems like the goal against Liverpool, then he would be a great choice. Walcott may just be needed in this one as his track record of scoring against Chelsea is good and his experience in big matches will be important this weekend.
While all these choices are viable, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the best option to take on incumbent left-back Cesar Azpilicueta. Chamberlain’s pace and ability to take the Spaniard one on one is such an important attribute to have. However, out of all three options, Chamberlain will provide the best defensive cover to overlapping runs that Azpilicueta loves to make as well as helping out Bellerin with Hazard cutting in on his right. His defensive presence just may be the difference in this tight affair.
The next question to answer is who to start up front. If Arsene Wenger deploys Chamberlain on the right wing like he should, that leaves Walcott in the mix to be played up front along with Olivier Giroud and Lucas Perez. Walcott’s sneaky runs behind the high line of Chelsea’s back four may be a good option. Giroud will bring his back to goal style and link up play very nicely whereas Perez will look to continue his good form after scoring a brace in the league cup.
However, Olivier Giroud should start, as he is the best option in this game. While Giroud can be unbelievably frustrating at times with his inconsistent finishing, his link up play will be vital to play out of Antonio Conte’s high pressure system. While Chelsea will be looking to push forward for major periods of the game, Giroud can provide an easy outlet to play the ball upfield, as he can win the aerial duel with almost any centre-back and start an Arsenal attack. Hopefully, Giroud will be determined to play well after starting the beginning of the season on the bench.
Maybe the biggest question to answer is who to play behind assist-king Mesut Ozil. The Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin pair has been lethal for well over a year now, but newcomer Granit Xhaka is in great form. The Swiss’ ability to pick out passes from anywhere on the field is unmatched on the team, as his long ball is superb. In addition, his two carbon-copy goals the past week make him a deep shooting threat that the Gunners need. The first against Hull City and the second against Nottingham Forrest, with that sublime left foot proving to be a threat from anywhere on the field.
Despite this, Wenger will have a very tough time disrupting the Coquelin-Cazorla partnership. In a game where it may just be wiser to sit back and hit Chelsea on the counter, Coquelin will certainly be needed to win the ball back and Cazorla will be needed to orchestrate the attack going forward. Whether it’s Cazorla or Xhaka springing forward that attack will be tough to decide, but the familiar pairing may just have the edge over the new signing this week.
Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis; Giroud