Arsenal host an emotional Cardiff City at home, with Unai Emery’s side hoping to build on their recent victory over Chelsea and keep the pressure on the Blues.
Arsenal are set to host Cardiff City at the Emirates, hoping to go level on points with Chelsea on the Premier League table with the Blues not playing until Wednesday night. The Gunners come into this game on the back of an impressive victory over the Blues in the last league match, although they did get knocked out of the FA Cup last week at the hands of Manchester United.
The last two results did come at a high cost as several defenders picked up significant injuries; first, it was Hector Bellerin against Chelsea who sustained a season-ending knee injury, while Sokratis and Laurent Koscielny suffered injuries against Manchester United that rules them out of the Cardiff game. Emery is now left to tinker between his available options to shore up the defence.
These injuries and defensive cover were the hot topic of Emery’s pre-match press conference along with news of potential signings. Emery did respond to all those queries, especially that of defensive cover.
“[Koscielny and Sokratis] are not OK for tomorrow. But it is good news for example for Laurent Koscielny because he didn’t break his jaw.”
Koscielny and Sokratis’ absence will open the doors for Nacho Monreal and Shkodran Mustafi to come into the starting lineup and take their places in central defence alongside Granit Xhaka who will be shifted to the back three from midfield. Dinos Mavropanos has been back in full training for some weeks, although Emery will likely go with his experienced options.
Bernd Leno will retain his position as the league goalkeeper and take his place from Petr Cech, who started against Manchester United. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is expected to cover for Hector Bellerin as the right-wing back as Emery, with Sead Kolasinac taking his place on the opposite flank.
On the positive side of things, as far as injuries are concerned, playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan has recovered from a foot injury, although the Cardiff game will come too soon for the Armenian to return to the fold. Apart from that, there are no fresh injury concerns in attack or midfield.
Meanwhile, with Xhaka set to play in defence, the midfield will consist of Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira. Upfront, Aaron Ramsey will retain his place in the front three, playing on the right side of the attack. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will maintain his position on the left side of attack while Alexandre Lacazette will continue as Arsenal’s central striker.