There are question marks circling the Gunners this summer, even with the Charity Shield approaching fast. Arsenal, the defending FA Cup champions, will play Chelsea, defending Premier League champions, at Wembley on August 6th.
Despite the possible departure of Alexis Sanchez, the team’s starting lineup is beginning to take shape. So, if the season were to start today, this is what Arsenal may look like.
Arsene Wenger confirmed he will start the season with the same 3-4-2-1 formation that brought him success at the end of last year. So, let’s start with the attacking players.
Alexis Sanchez was the main attacking force up front for the Gunners last season, but with the team breaking their transfer record to bring in Alexandre Lacazette, there is little doubt who will start.
Both Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud will also be available, as the club have no plans to sell either player. However, neither are expected to be preferred over Lacazette.
Giroud had one of the better years of his career last season, even while playing second fiddle to Sanchez. He made several very impactful substitute appearances last year, tallying some really important late goals.
However, the Frenchman does not have the speed that is becoming necessary to be a great striker in the modern Premier League. Olivier Giroud has great strength and heading ability, but his lack of movement will likely mean he will remain an impact sub next season.
Welbeck has great speed and movement, as well as some strength to boot, but not in as bountiful quantities as Lacazette, or Giroud respectively. The Englishman has also been criticized for wasting good scoring chances, much like Theo Walcott when he was deployed as a striker.
So, Danny Welbeck would probably play in the Cups as a starter, and then as a sub when his speed is needed off the bench.
Probable starter; Alexandre Lacazette
Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez played in support of the striker in Wenger’s “Christmas Tree” formation last year, and despite the fact Thomas Lemar is linked with Arsenal, there is no indication that either will be left out in the cold yet.
Ozil is expected the sign a new deal before the end of the summer, while the team is adamant that Sanchez will not be sold. So, even if Lemar is purchased, the dynamic duo will almost certainly be back for next season.
Other creative players like Santi Cazorla or Jack Wilshere may also be deployed here during the Cup matches, or as subs, but since both are still injured, there really isn’t any competition within the team for these places.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could possible also deputize here, but his versatility may relegate him to being another ‘super-sub’ for Arsenal. Alex Iwobi could also go here, but he fell out of favor towards the end of the season last year.
Probable starters; Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez
The Midfield Four
Let’s start with the central midfielders. As mentioned above, neither Santi Cazorla nor Jack Wilshere will be available for the early phases of the campaign, so Wenger will rely on the workhorses from last season.
Granit Xhaka turned into one of the main players in the Arsenal team towards the end of last season. He did make some really bad tackles early in the year, but settled in nicely with his new team.
The Swiss’ distribution was second to none, routinely completing 90%+ of his passes during the final ten games, making him a valuable replacement for Cazorla.
Aaron Ramsey also proved he was one of Wenger’s favorites, and was started game in and game out, even when he had to play out of position. His winning goal in the FA Cup Final will also not hurt his case to carry on in the starting XI.
Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin will also be available, but it was clear that neither player was preferred by their Manager. Coquelin’s passing has never set the world on fire, while Elneny looks like more of a depth player than a starter.
The wing-back positions are also not really being hotly contested. Nacho Monreal has once again proved he is the top choice on the left side, that is when he is not deputizing in defense. Meanwhile, Arsenal really don’t have a good alternative to Hector Bellerin on the right.
Sead Kolasniac could challenge for Monreal’s spot, but he never proved to be an attacking threat in his time at Schalke. Meanwhile, The Ox’s defensive deficiencies will likely relegate him to the bench and the Cup competitions.
Probable starters; Nacho Monreal, Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Hector Bellerin
The Back Three
Most years it feels like Arsenal have a crisis at center-back even before the season starts, but this year is different. Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi formed a solid partnership from almost the very beginning last season, and Rob Holding was a revelation when they were not available to play.
Meanwhile, Per Mertesacker, when he came back from injury, looked like he didn’t skip a beat, given that was only for two games. Calum Chambers had a great season on loan at Middlesbrough, who were relegated despite only leaking 53 goals.
However, Chambers has been linked heavily with a move away from the Emirates, with Crystal Palace already making a bid. Time will tell if he leaves, but the good form of the other defenders would likely force him to play in the Cups and Europa League.
Meanwhile, Mertesacker has already announced his retirement at the end of next season to manage Arsenal’s Academy. So the German may spend more time learning with the coaches than playing with the players.
With so many other defenders impressing, Gabriel may be the one left out in the cold completely, especially if the Boss decides to play with a back four in the Cups and in Europe.
Koscielny and Mustafi are the best blends of experience and ability, while Holding did plenty to earn a chance in the starting XI.
Probable starters; Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding
Just like with striker, there is really only one choice for the starting place. Wojciech Szczesny has already moved on from the team, and David Ospina came within inches of moving to Turkey.
Even if the Colombian does stay, Wenger’s selection over the past two years has revealed that Ospina would remain the number two.
Meanwhile, Emiliano Martinez simply does not have the requisite experience to overtake Petr Cech, at least in the short term.
Probable starter; Petr Cech
Probable Starting XI
Cech, Holding, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerin, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette
Time to have your say Gooners!
Did I get the starting XI right? What would you change? Will Sanchez be at the team next year?
Let me know in the comments below