So, predicting the XI for Saturday’s game against Hull City is tricky.
It’s usually fairly testing, but this weekend is particularly difficult as I have to think about Arsène Wenger’s rotation plans, which players he trusts together and how seriously he will take the opposition ahead of a week which involves games against Barcelona and Manchester United.
The boss has already suggested that David Ospina will play, so the Colombian would take Petr Čech’s place in goal. Ahead of him there isn’t a lot of room for rotation.
With Mathieu Debuchy sold and Gabriel injured, we only have six senior defenders. Calum Chambers will probably start at right-back to give Héctor Bellerín a break, while Kieran Gibbs can expect to take Nacho Monreal’s left-back spot for another cup tie.
In the centre of the defence, that would leave little choice but to play Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny together before they both start against Barça on Tuesday.
The midfield is even trickier, and though I am predicting starts for Mohamed Elneny and Alex Iwobi I think I may be wrong on the setup. I’m going for the pair of them in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but Wenger may look to add another central midfielder – Francis Coquelin or Mathieu Flamini – to reinforce the side while resting Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil. Coquelin may well be left out though, as he hasn’t played consecutive matches since November.
That would leave a player free in the number 10 role, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alexis Sánchez used there as he was last season when Danny Welbeck was up front. I get the impression Wenger won’t be able to resist the temptation to start Welbeck and take advantage of the good mood created by last weekend’s late winner.
That means there are two wide roles available, and I’ve picked Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell. Walcott scored from the bench last weekend but Welbeck’s return could see him slip down the centre-forward pecking order. However, playing from the right he is still dangerous so give him a chance to earn a place in the next two games. Campbell is much more of a safe rotation option, and we know he will work hard if selected.