Tomorrow is the big one. Tottenham. And it is important that Unai Emery gets his selection right.
The big criticism of the Spaniards first season is his chopping and changing of formation and personnel. He is the new tinkerman.
At times this season he has got it right – the home games against Chelsea and Tottenham being his two biggest wins of the season. At other times he has got it wrong. Get it right on Saturday and we win.
The first selection headache is what to do about Mesut Ozil.
Ozil fell out of favour over the Christmas period. Reports of him missing training sessions and numerous requests to take days off sick. However he has performed well in the last couple of weeks, adding the creativity that we have missed at times this season.
At £350,000 a week, Ozil is our highest paid player. If he does not start – and perform – against the likes of Tottenham and Manchester United; his future has to be questioned.
Performing against Bournemouth is all well and good, but it is the big games where you need the big players to turn up.
I would start Ozil against Tottenham.
Firstly it might surprise everyone, be a big boast to the fans and give Spurs something else to think about.,
Secondly if he fails to perform against Spurs and Manchester United next week, it would clear up the decision making at the club on his future.
With Eric Dier out injured and Victor Wanyama out of favour, Tottenham do not really have a defensive midfielder. Neither Harry Winks or Moussa Sissoko are defensively disciplined. Ozil with his excellent movement will be able to exploit the space.
Ahead of Ozil, Emery needs to pick between Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. I would pick the French-born French international over the French-born Gabonese international.
We might only get 2 or 3 chances tomorrow, so we need the best finisher on the pitch. Lacazette is also better at closing down and occupying defenders.
The other side is with Aubameyang’s natural pace, he is better than Lacazette to come off the bench – exploiting a tired defence on the break.
What formation we play could cause Emery a head ache. Do we go 4321, giving the side extra in the middle of the park and less out wide, or 4231. Alternatively will he go 3421 like against Bournemouth?
The way you beat Tottenham is by getting down the side of them. Their wing backs are much better going forward than defending. They leave space.
To exploit this Arsenal need to play wingers. Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan must start.
Both men are high energy and capable of putting in a shift. This will enable Arsenal to press Tottenham’s defence, halting the transition of the ball from defence to midfield.
Alongside Lacazette, Iwobi and Mkhitaryan will put pressure on the Tottenham defenders when on the ball.
Both men have the technical ability to exploit the space left by Tottenham’s defenders, and are able to drop back and assist Arsenal’s full-backs defensively. They will be able to track back Tottenham’s full backs and force them back the other way.
Our goals tomorrow will come from Ozil finding space, getting the ball outwide and cut backs to Lacazette in the box.
Arsenal need to control the midfield tomorrow. With Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira they can do just that.
It might bea tough decision to leave Matteo Guendouzi out, but Xhaka and Torreira are better AND we do not need to play 3 in the middle.
Tottenham’s central midfield is their weak link.
Winks is an OK footballer, but not top class. Sissoko is average. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli are class going forward, but offer little defensively.
Torreira and Xhaka should be able to control the centre of the park.
Both men will also be able to pick up the runs from Alli (if he is fit) and stick close to Eriksen. You cut the Dane off and Tottenham struggle to create.
That leaves Arsenal playing a flat back 4.
I would take the risk on the left and go for Saed Kolasinac over Nacho Monreal.
Tottenham do not really have out and out wingers. They rely on their full backs to create the width. Kolasinac should be able to deal with Kieran Trippier – and it would also give Arsenal the duel threat of the Bosnian and Iwobi on the left hand side.
In the middle it is Sokratis +1. However is fit. The same scenario is at right back.
Emery has lots of choices to make in the next 24 hours, but I would go:
Jenkinson Mustafi Sokratis Kolasinac
Mkhitaryan Ozil Iwobi