Alexis Sánchez is likely to be back in the squad for the game against Manchester City on Monday, but Arsène Wenger would be mad to pick him.
Arsenal play against Southampton on Boxing Day, against Bournemouth less than 48 hours later and against Newcastle United on 2nd January. In such a busy period rotation will be necessary and Alexis will have to play him for as long as possible, so rushing his return would be bonkers.
Even though the game is one of the biggest of the season, he can surely come off the bench (if required) and have an impact? Losing him for even longer is not worth the risk and, with that in mind, here’s a predicted XI for the game.
In goal, Petr Čech will hope to set a new Premier League record for clean sheets, having matched David James’ tally of 169 in last weekend’s 2-0 win at Villa Park. In front of him will be the first defence, Wenger’s first choice back four of: Héctor Bellerín, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal.
There is little choice but to pair Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey in midfield. We’ve heard nothing on Mikel Arteta’s fitness, so Calum Chambers seems to be the only other option. Ramsey has scored in both Premier League starts since his return to a central role, but may have to be more reserved against such a dangerous City team.
Mesut Özil will be the final central midfield player, given the license to roam form his usual number 10 role. Flanking him will be Joel Campbell, who has impressed in recent weeks as Alexis has been out, and Theo Walcott. The Englishman is a huge goal threat and tends to deliver on the biggest of nights. As Aleksandr Kolarov will play at left-back for City, Joel Campbell and his team ethic will probably be needed on the right, meaning Walcott will start on the left once again.
Finally, in-form man Olivier Giroud will start up front. We get the best out of him with Walcott, Ramsey and Özil behind him, and his ability to hold the ball up could be crucial on a night when we may have to surrender possession from time to time.