Squad info and how the team will likely line up against Man Utd, and in Madrid on Thursday.
Arsenal facing Man United on Sunday, between the two ties against Atletico Madrid, is awkward to say the least. Even with nothing to play for in the league, a lot of pride and importance is involved in a rivalry like the one at Old Trafford. It might also be Wenger’s last ever battle with Mourinho. It puts the Frenchman in a tough predicament.
How should the Gunners line up against Man United when every one of their starting players are crucial against Atletico on Thursday? Which is also one of Wenger’s most important games of his career.
Arsenal played against ten men for 80 minutes on Thursday. In which, according to Uefa.com, Arsenal kept 72% of the possession. A far less physical taxing face-off against the Spaniards than anticipated.
Mkhitaryan is back in contention as well, Wenger has said, and Arsenal’s only missing players are Elneny and Cazorla, who might be out for the rest of the season.
But Mustafi, Monreal and Lacazette have all started the last four games in 14 days for Arsenal. Welbeck has started the last four out of five games, Xhaka has started the last five out of six and Bellerin has played the last six out of seven games.
Muscular injuries, like the good-old hamstring, shouldn’t be a concern for the rest of the squad, including Özil and Wilshere, who have started only two of the last five games, as well as Ramsey and Koscielny, who have started three of the last five.
But immediate physical and mental fatigue is an issue as Arsenal play at home against Atletico, away against Man United and then travel to Madrid within the frame of seven days.
Difficult choices were made by Wenger in prioritising the two fixtures, and the Frenchman concluded with leaving many of his usual suspects off the train to Manchester yesterday.
Revealed travelling squad is:
Cech – Ospina – Bellerin – Monreal – Kolasinac – Osei-Tutu – Mavropanos – Holding – Chambers – Willock – Xhaka – M Niles – Mkhitaryan – Iwobi – R Nelson – Welbeck – Nketiah – Aubameyang
That means Koscielny, Mustafi, Wilshere, Ramsey, Özil and Lacazette will all watch the game back in London.
With such an inexperienced squad, playing the 5-4-1 formation is probably most appropriate. Seeing that Mkhitrayan just came back from injury and might feature against Atletico, I envisage him coming on from the bench at some point in the game.
My predicted line-up:
That would mean only three players remain in the starting eleven from Thursday. A defensive counter-attacking focus would be most effective with Nelson, Iwobi and Aubameyang up front against a strong Man Utd line-up.
Arsenal fans will look back to 2011, when Arsenal were humiliated 8-2 at Old Trafford with a makeshift starting eleven consisting of players such as Jenkinson, Djourou, Armand Traore and Coquelin. Few Gooners could handle that experience again, let alone the possibility of seeing Alexis score a hat-trick on top of it. This is a stronger side than seven years ago, but a top performance is needed to get anything away from Old Trafford.
These massive line-up changes make it easier to select a starting eleven on Thursday. We can now assume, with a fine margin, that Arsenal will play the same team in both ties against Altetico:
Mkhitaryan could start, but Welbeck has been in good form. Even with minutes against Man United, the Armenian would most likely be considered a possible substitute instead.
Also read: “The managers most fit to take over for Wenger…” here.