After a shaky start to the season, Arsenal seem to have got back on track with three back-to-back wins in the Premier League, a good Champions League point at Paris Saint-Germain last week, and a comfortable win over Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup on Tuesday night.
Despite the upturn in form, Arsene Wenger will know it is vital to keep building momentum, and with London and potential title rivals Chelsea visiting the Emirates this Saturday, he will have a number of key decisions to make in order to keep Arsenal’s run going.
After Granit Xhaka put in another domineering performance against Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup this week, Wenger will have the luxury of having to pick between a number of impressive central midfield options.
In recent weeks Wenger has placed great importance on partnerships in the centre of the field, feeling the existing relationship between Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla presents the safest option at the beginning of the season.
Despite this, Xhaka will feel he has done enough to earn a starting berth against Chelsea this weekend, after perfectly balancing defence and attack as he marshalled the space in front of the back four on Tuesday night.
Another option for Wenger is Mohamed Elneny. Acting as Xhaka’s partner on Tuesday night, Elneny provides energy and drive to the Arsenal midfield, and will feel after a string of impressive performances last season, that he will be required to match the dynamism of Chelsea new-boy N’Golo Kante on Saturday.
Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka scores their first goal
Alexis Sanchez’s Best Position
After Lucas Perez grabbed a brace and laid on an assist in Arsenal’s victory over Forest on Tuesday, Wenger will have a decision to make up front. Perez has only started one league game for Arsenal so far this season, with Alexis Sanchez proving to be Wenger’s preferred choice as he allows the Spanish forward time to integrate with his new teammates.
But after a fantastic performance in midweek, Perez will be hoping he has done enough to convince Wenger that he is deserving of a start berth against Chelsea this weekend. Despite scoring two against Hull City on Saturday, many are still unconvinced by Sanchez up front, feeling instead that his skills are best suited in one of the three attacking roles behind the centre-forward where he can contribute more frequently to Arsenal’s build-up.
Arsenal’s Lucas Perez scores their third goal
Drop Mesut Özil?
Finally, Wenger will need to decide whether to field out-of-form attacking midfielder, Mesut Özil. On his day, Özil is one of the star turns in the Premier League, recording 19 assists last season, and breaking a record for most clear-cut chances created.
Özil has the ability to unlock a defence at any time and could provide the magic required to separate the two sides in what is likely to be a cagey affair.
Despite this, Özil has appeared to struggle in the opening weeks of the season, and with a less than impressive record against the so called “bigger” teams in the league, Wenger will have a serious decision to make over his German playmaker.
Dropping Özil could free Sanchez behind new-boy Perez and provide a more direct threat to the Chelsea back-line. Conversely, Wenger could opt for more security in midfield, fielding Xhaka alongside Coquelin and Cazorla in the middle of the park. This would stifle the Chelsea midfield and allow Arsenal to dictate the play whilst protecting themselves against Chelsea’s counter-attacking threat.