The Barclays Premier League returns to action this weekend and to kick off the busy weekend in British soccer, Arsenal will host the reigning champions Manchester City today at 5:45. With both sides having some injury issues, let’s take a look at who the managers could select to start the important match.
Goalkeeper – Wojciech Szczęsny. The Gunners do have Colombia international David Ospina healthy and ready to go now; however, Szczęsny is the team’s number one keeper at the moment and now is not quite the time for Ospina to make his Premier League debut.
Defenders – Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, and Mathieu Debuchy. Koscielny, Mertesacker, and Debuchy are all logical choices to start in Arsene Wenger’s defense on Saturday. The French manager explained on Thursday that Gibbs is now fully fit and ready to play ahead of the Manchester City match. Nacho Monreal did a decent job covering for the injured Gibbs over the last few weeks, but Gibbs is Arsenal’s first choice left back in the squad.
Midfielders – Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, and Mesut Özil. Arteta has missed the last three Arsenal matches due to an ankle injury, but is now fit and available for selection. With Aaron Ramsey a doubt for the match due to his own ankle injury (side note: unless the match is being played on the North Pole, artificial pitch surfaces should probably not be used), I would not rush him back and risk losing Arsenal’s reigning Player of the Season for further matches. Arteta and Wilshere should be used as the two holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation, while Cazorla and Özil will most likely rotate between the left flank and number 10 roles (although Özil is better suited to stay in the middle of the pitch).
Forwards – Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck. Alexis will most likely be deployed on the right flank of the 4-2-3-1 formation, and I believe Wenger will go with Welbeck (over Yaya Sanogo or Lukas Podolski) at the center forward position, as the England international is coming off a two-goal game against Switzerland on Monday.
Goalkeeper – Joe Hart. Hart, another England international, has featured in all three previous Premier League matches this season for the Citizens. Willy Caballero is a solid option at the position, but Hart is Manchester City’s man in goal for now.
Defenders – Gael Clichy, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, and Bacary Sagna. This is a very interesting defense, as both Clichy and Sagna are former Arsenal players. Aleksandar Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta, and fresh arrival Eliaquim Mangala could all make a strong case to enter the starting lineup on Saturday, but Clichy and Sagna would love an opportunity to face their former teammates.
Midfielders – Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, David Silva, and Jesus Navas. With Fernando picking up a groin injury, Fernandinho and Toure are ideal players to man the middle of the pitch for City. Nasri (another former Gunner) and Navas on the flanks and Silva, in the argument for the best attacking midfielder in the Premier League, in the number 10 role, this midfield group appears to be a very strong attacking lineup.
Forward – Sergio Agüero. As Manchester City’s best striker, Agüero would be the logical choice as the lone striker in this lineup. Fellow forward Stevan Jovetić is a doubt for the match because the Montenegrin sustained a hamstring injury while on international duty. The Citizens do also have Edin Džeko; however, I would suspect that Manuel Pellegrini would keep him on the bench just in case they need a goal later in the match.
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