It’s been a positive week, hasn’t it?
A better performance and 2-2 draw with Manchester City was followed by a 3-0 win over West Ham United on Wednesday, showing that a turnaround might be on the cards, while we cling to the slim hope of UEFA Champions League football next season.
Yes, there might still be chaos in the form of protests and the contractual issue surrounding Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil but, at least there appears to be some kind of light at the end of the tunnel.
Never the less, we have to wait till Monday for The Gunners next fixture, away to Crystal Palace. This wait is going to make it difficult for me to pick a starting XI this week as we don’t yet if there are any fresh injury concerns from Wednesday or the progress of those recovering from knocks.
But, alas, here is my team for Monday’s London derby at Selhurst Park.
With David Ospina and Petr Cech both injured, third choice ‘keeper Emi Martinez took their place between the sticks against West Ham, keeping a clean in the progress. However, Cech is expected to be fit for Monday and retakes the number one spot. It always difficult dropping a goalkeeper who’s just kept a clean sheet but, Cech’s experience and control of his penalty box will be key to managing the aerial bombardment that I fully anticipate.
Shkodran Mustafi scored the equaliser against Manchester City and marshalled Andy Carroll to good effect midweek so he keeps his spot. As for his partner, Gabriel keeps his place. Usual skipper and defensive stalwart Laurent Koscielny is struggling with an Achilles injury and would be a huge risk to start. Therefore, the same partnership as Wednesday continues.
Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal take the right and left back spots, respectively. Bellerin was an obvious selection as per usual while I have selected Monreal for his more defensive-minded approach. I fully expect Palace to utilise the winger’s as much as possible, looking to find Christian Benteke in the area and bully Arsenal into defeat.
For once, I was fairly impressed with Granit Xhaka the other night. I thought he seemed less erratic, more conscious of his role and decisions, using the ball well when possession. For that reason, he keeps his place.
As does Mohamed Elneny alongside him. His energy in midfield and the invigorating effect it had on the entire team was clear to see. His presence at both ends of the pitch will be important as I look to play quick, high tempo football, exposing a lack of pace in the Palace defensive, all the while, stifling the pace they possess in attack.
Theo Walcott scored the second goal on Wednesday and now has 19 goals in all competitions. He just about fights off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who impressed from the bench against West Ham, for the starting spot come Monday.
The other flank is occupied by Alexis Sanchez, with the Chilean expected to create and cause issues for the Crystal Palace defence, drifting in from the touchline and onto his right foot.
A goal and an assist from Mesut Ozil midweek somewhat silenced his critics but, as always is the issue with Mesut, he needs to find some consistency and put in another match-winning performance on Monday, showing the same kind of energy and drive as Wednesday.
Now with 70 and 75 minutes in the tank after long-term injury, Danny Welbeck should soon be back in form. He looked lively against the Hammers but, it’s clear the confidence is lacking somewhat. A goal would see him burst into life, potentially playing a key role in Champions League qualification, and I’m willing to give him that chance. Welbeck leads the line. We’ve always got Olivier Giroud in reserve if needed.
So that’s my team. Over to you now Arsene.