In an ideal world, my team for this week would consist of youngsters and second string players, as we would have already won the Premier League and could afford to rest key players ahead of the upcoming UEFA Champions League and FA Cup finals, as we tried to complete the treble.
However, in the real world, I am sat at my computer rather than in the manager’s office, and while we have an FA Cup final to look forward to, the Champions League final is merely a dream, and we cannot afford to rest players.
Arsene Wenger’s side need to win at home to Everton and hope that Middlesbrough pull off a minor miracle and beat Liverpool, allowing The Gunners to snatch four place and a Champions League spot for next season.
With this being a crucial game, there is no messing about from me this week.
So here’s my team.
Petr Cech is in between the sticks as per usual, following an impressive performance and clean sheet against Sunderland.
Now, I know I said we can’t afford to rest players but, Laurent Koscielny is struggling with a calf injury. We all know that Koscielny is the side’s best defender, we need to win, Everton will not be pushovers and well, there’s the small issue of a certain Romelu Lukaku. While a top-four finish would be nice, you don’t get to lift a fourth-placed trophy. You do, however, get to lift a trophy should you win the FA Cup Final at Wembley. So, Koscielny will sit this one out.
Shkodran Mustafi will instead take the central centre back spot in Koscielny’s absence and marshall the back three, a system I will stick with because it’s working, and you know what they say about if it isn’t broken…
To his right is the impressive Rob Holding. The English youngster keeps going from strength to strength the more and more he plays. He keeps his place in the back three alongside Mustafi.
Completing the back three is Gabriel. Although this could be the last chance to see Per Mertesacker in an Arsenal shirt – with the German likely to depart in the summer – I am all about results, not nostalgia. While Nacho Monreal has impressed in the back three, I think Gabriel will deal with the power and pace of Lukaku better than Monreal would, so Gabriel starts.
As for the wing backs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still out so Hector Bellerin is on the right. In the absence of The Ox, Bellerin has performed well in a role that really suits him, as there is less of focus on defending and he is allowed to get forward more. Keep it up, Hector
On the left is…honestly, I have no idea. I could go with Monreal or Kieran Gibbs, or even Ainsley Maitland-Niles. No, I said no youngsters. Gibbs or Monreal? Gibbs or Monreal? Just because I thought he did okay against Sunderland midweek, Gibbs can keep his spot. Also, by benching Monreal we can keep him fit for the Cup final, with Gibbs adequate cover at left-wing back.
Having struggled to find a decent midfield partnership all season, it appears we may have finally stumbled upon one. A little too late yes but, we have stumbled across one nonetheless.
Granit Xhaka has really stepped up his performances in recent weeks, having struggled since his summer arrival. He now looks more the like the player we thought we were getting, an enforcer with a wonderful range of passing who can dictate the tempo of a game, rather than leg kicking hatchet man he sometimes becomes.
Alongside him is Aaron Ramsey. Having struggled with injury most of this season (shock), the Welshman appears to have found himself a good partner in Xhaka and cement his place in the team. We all know that Ramsey is at his best when running from deep and causing problems by driving at opposition defences. With Xhaka sitting deep, Ramsey has been given more license to get forward but, he now just needs to find his goal scoring touch again.
Well, it could be the last time we see both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in an Arsenal shirt at The Emirates. Both start on the left and right side, respectively and after both have put in man-of-the-match performances in our last two games, I will ask for more of the same…while also politely telling both to sign a new contract, which will more than likely be followed by begging.
Now for the striker. Oh, how I’ve missed you. You’ve been gone for so long but you are finally back. Lucas Perez, a personal favourite of mine is back in the starting line-up. Although Olivier Giroud scored twice against Stoke, he could have had a hat-trick against Sunderland, and came away with nothing, so he is dropped the bench. What I need from Perez is clever and quick movement to cause the Everton centre-backs problems, and if he doesn’t mind grabbing a goal or two, that would be greatly appreciated.
So, there is my team. We need a win and I am confident we can get it, however, we still need Boro to pull off the impossible and beat Liverpool, something they might struggle to do as they’ve made it clear all season long that they couldn’t hit a barn door with a machine gun.
Oh well, we shall see what happens come Sunday…