Arsenal will look to close the gap on Tottenham to a single point as they prepare for the North London Derby at Wembley.
Unai Emery will be eager to take advantage of Tottenham’s recent struggles and encourage his Arsenal side to seize the opportunity to close the gap on their rivals when both sides meet at Wembley for the North London Derby. Arsenal come into the game on the back of a dominant 5-1 win over Bournemouth at the Emirates, while Tottenham have lost their last two games in the league.
Barring the long-term absentees in Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck, Unai Emery has a full-strength squad at his disposal. There were a few doubts over the fitness of Sead Kolasinac, who hobbled off against Bournemouth, and Laurent Koscielny who suffered a knock to his knee. But, both players have been declared fit to feature.
Bernd Leno is a sure starter between the posts, with Petr Cech on the bench. Emery has three players as options for the right wing-back slot in the fit-again Stephan Lichtsteiner, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Carl Jenkinson. We reckon it would be Maitland-Niles, who provides the balance that Emery needs in this position in the absence of Bellerin.
The Arsenal boss is likely to use a three-man defensive unit at the back, and with Shkodran Mustafi rested for the Bournemouth clash, the German could return to the starting lineup. He would partner Sokratis and Koscielny. At left wing-back, Emery will decide between Nacho Monreal and Kolasinac, all depending on the Bosnian’s late fitness test. If fit, Kolasinac would be preferred.
Granit Xhaka, who was rested during the midweek league tie, is a sure starter, while Emery will continue with Lucas Torreira, who has done nothing wrong to harm his chances, meaning Matteo Guendouzi will be on the bench.
Fans will be curious to know if Mesut Ozil features in the squad, having been left out time and again this season, especially during big games. The German, however, seems to have done enough with his performances in the last two games to warrant a place, more so in the starting lineup. And, Emery was quizzed on the playmaker during his pre-match press conference.
“For us, we are doing a plan for a lot of matches and each match is different, whether it’s home or away, the opposition and how we are in each moment. The most important thing is whether each player can be OK for tomorrow. Then we decide to play. With this, we’ll decide whether Mesut will play tomorrow.”
Up ahead in the final third, Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s performances in the last two games – the Armenian has racked up two goals and three assists- make him a certain starter on the right side of the Arsenal attack.
Emery, however, will likely make some changes in the other two spots in the front trio. with the manager likely to use either Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Aaron Ramsey on the left side of the attack, with Ozil expected to be dropped for a big game once again.
Alexandre Lacazette might return to the starting lineup to lead the line against Tottenham after coming on from the bench during the midweek. That means, if Aubameyang does not start on the left flank, he is likely to drop down to the bench.