In a week that saw a four game ban for Granit Xhaka AND Arsene Wenger, Arsenal aren’t exactly winning any popularity contests with the FA.
But this weekend provides a superb chance for the Gunners to focus on what happens on the pitch rather than off it, with a ticket to the fifth round of the Cup up for grabs.
Whilst Southampton are suffering from a pile-up of first team injuries, Wenger has got near enough a full squad to play with when he makes the trip to St. Mary’s.
Despite him serving the first of his touchline-ban, Wenger is expected to name a side with a lot of first team experience, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be big changes.
Goalkeeper: David Ospina
The first name on the team-sheet due to Wenger’s strict Cup rotation policy, but Ospina has rarely put a foot wrong when given the chance between the sticks. Another good performance should be good for him because Bayern Munich is coming up and Wenger faces a huge decision.
Full-Backs: Hector Bellerin and Kieran Gibbs
It’s been a while for these two but after Gabriel started the last game, it only makes sense to bring a fresh legged Bellerin back into action. Gibbs has been a great option for our rotation issues and he’s giving Wenger a headache when picking between him and Monreal.
Centre Back’s: Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny
I’d love to get Rob Holding into the starting XI for this but due to it being Southampton away, we should stick with a centre back partnership that hasn’t failed so far. Mustafi is unbeaten in 21 Arsenal games, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him or Koscielny dropped for Holding.
Centre Defensive Midfield: Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey
Not really much choice here following Granit Xhaka’s red card and Santi Cazorla still sitting out from that long-term injury he picked up late last year. With Southampton depleted in all areas, it’s a great chance for these two to find a connection ahead of a huge week in the Premier League that includes a trip to Chelsea.
Right Midfield: Lucas Perez
I’ve loved the way this guy plays and it’s a shame he hasn’t been given more chances, but after sitting out for a while in the Premier League, it’s finally his turn to start. Lucas already has six goals to his name including a Champions League hat-trick. His determination to get forward mixes well with his experience to know when to defend.
Centre Attacking Midfield: Alex Iwobi
January has brought Iwobi a couple of chances to fill the number 10 role and he hasn’t let us or Mesut Ozil down when given the chance. I would rest one of Ozil and Alexis, and as you’ll see by scrolling down that Alexis gets the nod to start this one. Having the legs of Ramsey sitting just behind Iwobi will help to create things, knowing that Coquelin has things wrapped up in defence.
Left Wing: Alexis Sanchez
It’s not the position he’s best suited to in my opinion, but he can swap around with any of the four attacking positions which makes Alexis the perfect option. Walcott will get 20 minutes of action towards the end, so throw Alexis on from the start.
Centre Forward: Danny Welbeck
Although he hasn’t started a game yet this season, this is the perfect chance for Welbeck to get an hour under his belt, with plenty of options on the bench if it isn’t working. Wenger’s brought him on in every game since he returned from injury and I just know how desperate Welbz is to be on from the first whistle.
My Line-Up vs. Southampton (4-2-3-1): Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Ramsey, Lucas, Iwobi, Alexis, Welbeck
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