After a disappointing 1-3 defeat against Manchester United, Arsenal now welcome Cardiff City at The Emirates Stadium in a midweek Premier League fixture. Every game becomes very important now for The Gunners as they battle both Chelsea and Manchester United for the last Champions League spot.
The Gunners suffered a major setback last week as both Sokratis and Laurent Koscielny have now been added to Arsenal’s injury list. The central defenders now join Rob Holding, Danny Welbeck, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Hector Bellerin in Arsenal’s long injury list.
Bernd Leno will retain his starting spot against Cardiff City. The German has done well so far in his first Premier League season. He has been reliable, while having an inconsistent and constantly changing Arsenal defence in front of him. There have been times when he has been tested, but the Gunners’ keeper has done very well on most of those occasions.
Unai Emery is short of options in this department with majority of his first choice defenders injured. And with Arsenal not quite looking to make any moves in the transfer market, it does look like the Spaniard will have to adjust with the same set of players until the end of the season.
Shkodran Mustafi and Greek youngster Konstantinos Mavropanos are the only two recognized central defenders who are fit and available for Arsenal. And I believe, the 21 year old might get his first Premier League start of the season on Tuesday against Cardiff City.
If Emery does refrain from starting the youngster though, he does have two options in makeshift centerbacks Stephan Lichtsteiner and Nacho Monreal. But both of these senior members of the Arsenal squad have not looked anywhere near their best whenever they have played this season.
Ainsley Maitland Niles will start for the Gunners on the right side and Sead Kolasinac on the left. Ains has just returned from an injury few weeks ago and has done fairly well whenever he has been asked to play.
Kolasinac on the other hand, is not the best of full backs but the Bosnian is certainly among the top wing backs in the League. His attacking work is commendable, but he is just a little too vulnerable defensively. And Cardiff City could take advantage of that.
Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira, two of Arsenal’s most important players will start for Arsenal in central midfield against Cardiff City. The two pass masters will have Aaron Ramsey (or Ozil, rather surprisingly) in front of them to create chances for the Arsenal forwards against Cardiff City
Ramsey could be a very crucial player for Arsenal until the end of the season. With Ozil not being picked by the manager and no other creator in the team, it becomes very important for the Welshman to start all the remaining games. Especially if Arsenal are realistically looking at that fourth Champions League spot and not completely relying on the Europa League for qualification.
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Alexandre Lacazette will lead the line for Arsenal against Cardiff City, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Iwobi on either side of the Frenchman. Iwobi seems to have impressed Emery a lot and has started majority of games ahead of the likes of Ozil and Ramsey. So, it is evident that he will start against Cardiff as well.
Aubameyang will be looking to get his 15th Premier League goal this season, just two behind the leader Mohamed Salah. And his partner Alexandre Lacazette has looked equally good in the last few games. And having scored eight League goals already, he will also look to catch up on his Gabonese partner.
Arsenal will come back strong from the defeat against Manchester United in the FA Cup. The Gunners face a struggling Cardiff City side battling relegation. So I expect Arsenal to come out with an easy 2-0 victory.