The New Year hasn’t brought any positive news for Arsenal fans as the Gunners have endured a somewhat disappointing start to 2018. Firstly, Arsene Wenger’s men dropped two important points in a thrilling 2-2 draw against Chelsea. Then the gaffer was given a touchline ban of three games for his misconduct during the game against West Brom.
The biggest disappointment came this past weekend when the Gunners were dumped out of the FA Cup by Championship side Nottingham Forrest. Arsenal names a weakened lineup and the Championship side took advantage.
Now, they would have to rejuvenate themselves in the first leg of their semifinal clash against Chelsea. From a neutral’s perspective, Wenger needs to take this competition very seriously as it provides him with the only option of winning a silverware this season; except well, of course, the Europa League.
Laurent Koscielny is undergoing a process to cure his Achilles’ and will have to sit out of this game. Olivier Giroud and Sead Kolasinac are major doubts for the game too and a late decision will be taken on their availability for the game.
Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey is still not available for selection due to his hamstring issue. Nacho Monreal is unavailable too.
Petr Cech will return to guard the goal after Arsenal experimented with David Ospina in the FA Cup. Cech displayed a safe pair of hands in the Premier League game against Chelsea last weekend and would hope to continue that kind of form.
The centre-half is certainly an area of concern for Arsenal. Rob Holding and Per Mertesacker were hardly convincing against Nottingham. It would be foolish to experiment with them again for some time now.
So, Calum Chambers could return to partner Shkodran Mustafi. They will be most likely be joined by Laurent Koscielny. Mustafi and Koscielny need to make sure that Arsenal avoid making such errors again.
Hector Bellerin had a great game against Chelsea when he unleashed a thunderous half-volley to equalise in the dying moments of the game. Another impressive player in that game was Ainsley-Maitland Niles. Both the wingbacks possess searing pace and can trouble Alonso and Moses.
Granit Xhaka and Jack Wilshere can form the central midfield pairing. Wilshere is the source of creativity for Arsenal. He has proven his ability to initiate attacks from deep midfield in the recent games. Xhaka would be hoping to be a tad more precise with his passes and needs to be disciplined.
Alexandre Lacazette will be leading the line in the game. The Frenchman would want to improve on his showing against Chelsea last week when he missed a flurry of chances to give Arsenal an early lead.
Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez will be playing behind Lacazette. Ozil has been getting into spaces and putting in some key passes consistently. The tenacity and clinical finishing of Sanchez can give the Gunners an attacking advantage in this game.