How have you been preparing yourself mentally to watch us play Southampton with Mattiue Flamini at left-back?
Have you envisaged a thousand nutmegs on him by Dusan Tadic and how many times Nathaniel Clyne would effortlessly bold past him?
Well, hold on your imaginations as there appears to be some good news for us going into the game, with Nacho Monreal and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain reported to have participated in training today.
Both players picked up knocks in Saturday’s 1 – 0 win at Albion, including Kieran Gibbs, and Wenger had been doubtful of their involvement against the Saints. However, tests this morning showed that their injuries may not have been as serious as initially feared and would be involved in the vital clash against Koeman’s side.
This is surely a huge boost to Wenger as it would have posed quite a scare to have a loop hole against a very impressive attacking line-up such as that of the Saints. Flamini would now be set to play in his regular defensive midfield role which is certainly better than having him at left-back as he has neither the pace, nor the balance in play to play in that role.
It would remain a blow that we can’t have Gibbs for the game, as he would have been the perfect match to neutralize the threat of Nathaniel Clyne. The England left-back contrived to twist his hip midway into the second half, leaving the manager red-faced, and has not recovered to be fit enough for the game. Gibbs has easily been one of the best performing players in the team this season as his forward play on the left flank has helped pose a threat to our attack in a way that balances the movement from the right.
Speaking of the right, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain appeared to have overcome the threat to his own knee on Saturday as he finished the game. The 21-year old has been in very strong form for the Gunners this season, having started nearly all games since October. While Walcott still suffers a groin strain, the pace of the Ox remains a key tool for Wenger’s side to put pressure on opponents with his ability to stretch defenses with his blistering pace.
The good news does not extend to the goal-keeping section as Szczesny remains out of this game, meaning that Emiliano Martinez will play a third successive Premier League game, and it bodes well for his confidence that he has kept two successive clean sheets against Dortmund and West Brom.
Wenger will be tempted to choose between Welbeck, Giroud or Sanogo to lead the line, with the latter available again after limping off midway into the second half of the Dortmund game, where he scored his first ever Arsenal goal in a competitive game.
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