How many of you are wishing I was actually the boss?
Yes, I do too!
Another week, another shambles, another disgrace. The 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace has plunged Arsenal into a further state of chaos, with the club looking increasingly unlikely to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season.
So, all we need right now is another away game against a team that are fighting for their Premier League lives…enter Middlesbrough.
Boro have struggled on their return to England’s top flight and are desperately trying to keep their head above water as The Championship grabs at their ankles, trying to drag them under.
Monday night’s clash is a must win for both, so who would I pick in order to secure a vital three points.
Thank the lord, Petr Cech is back. Emiliano Martinez hasn’t been that bad in two games he’s played and he was let down by his defense against Palace but, Cech is by far the superior ‘keeper and will take back the number one spot that is rightfully his.
The return of Cech is a positive but, the return of Laurent Koscielny is an absolute godsend. Without the Frenchman, Arsenal look vulnerable to falling flat on their back from a slight gust of wind. Koscielny’s presence makes The Gunners look like a completely different team, and his return from injury could not have come at a better time.
As for his partner in central defense, I’ve made a decision that could work wonders or hopelessly backfire.
As highly as I rate Shkodran Mustafi, he needs to be taken out of the firing line, for both the teams and his own sake. Gabriel is still having frequent nightmares about Christian Benteke so he won’t be getting picked. Per Mertesacker is fit but I really don’t want to select him.
That leaves me with only one option. Fans have been crying out for young Rob Holding to be given more of a chance, so I have answered these calls with a resounding yes, Holding gets the start.
Hector Bellerin starts at right-back once again. While there’s more chance of Yaya Sanogo winning the Ballon d’Or than Bellerin being dropped for Carl Jenkinson or Mathieu Debuchy, the Spaniard does need to rediscover his form quickly.
It’s the lesser of two evils when it comes to picking a left-back. Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs have both been awful all season but, in an attempt to stop the marauding steam train that is Middlesbrough winger Adama Traore, Kieran Gibbs gets the starting spot because of his extra pace.
I usually stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation but, it’s clear something needs to change in an attempt to get a win.
So, I’ve gone with a 4-3-3, and some unconventional picks.
Granit Xhaka will operate as the holding midfielder but, he has been warned, a lot, lot more is needed from him. We saw the best of the Swiss against West Ham United last week, with the energy of others allowing him to play his game. This is something that I want to recreate.
Sitting in front of Xhaka are Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Elneny.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has always impressed in a central midfield role, with is pace, energy and attacking impetus driving Arsenal forward. I will be asking for more of the same from the Ox at The Riverside on Monday night.
While Elneny was poor against Palace, he wasn’t the only one and has been consistent when called upon in the past. Similarly to Oxlade-Chamberlain, his energy is key to his selection but, his more defensive-minded approach means that I want him to play box-to-box, influencing the game at both ends.
The selection of this midfield trio gives the team an attacking minded, defensive minded and box-to-box player, allowing the midfield to have an influence on the game all over the pitch.
Now, the front three. All three have been given the license to roam, to go and create openings and win the game.
Alexis Sanchez plays on the left but, he needs to be more careful in possession and not give the ball away as much as he has done in recent weeks.
In what may appear like a slightly odd selection, Mesut Ozil plays out on the right.
When initially picking my team, I was going to drop the German to the bench. However, I’ve decided to play him out right in a more advanced role. This means he will have fewer defensive duties and will be free to focus on creating chances for the team.
It could be a tactical masterstroke, it could be a complete failure. Oh well, what do we have to lose?
Danny Welbeck plays as the central striker, just about holding off Olivier Giroud for the starting spot. Welbeck’s pace will be crucial to unlocking a Middlesbrough defense that has actually conceded fewer goals than Arsenal and Liverpool, despite the club sitting 19th in the league.
I am hoping this change in formation will give us a more solid structure, allowing the team to control the game and be more effective in attack.
Although Boro have struggled for goals, they are a strong compact unit that relies on a strong defense to pick up results, and by god to they need one on Monday.
It’ll be a difficult game for Arsenal but, I have set up my team to get a result.
How will Arsene set out his?