Competition for places is important but Unai Emery has a tough job on his hands when it comes to team selection at Arsenal. There are underperforming stars, players running down their contracts and young guns who are eager to step up to the first team. Emery will need to balance his starting lineup if he is to achieve his goals this season. The Gunners are out at 9/4 to reach the top four this season on Betway as of 13 September. That is behind even Manchester United whose manager may not even last long enough to see the end of the season.
With that in mind, Emery needs to get his strongest lineup figured out. Regardless of who plays around him, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is probably guaranteed of the starting spot up front for Emery’s Arsenal. The Gabon international grabbed his first goal of the season in the 3-2 victory over Cardiff City before the international break and one of just a handful of players to have started every Premier League match for the Gunners so far.
One man who hasn’t exactly found a place in the team yet is Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman has seen his playing time reduced to mostly substitute appearances so far this season but his presence has been felt. Lacazette’s cameos were often excellent and impressed Emery enough to reward him with a starting spot in the team at Cardiff. Lacazette was the man of the match that day and has played himself into the starting lineup but who will be alongside him throughout the rest of the campaign?
In an ideal world, Mesut Özil would be supplying the chances for this clinical Arsenal front two but things haven’t been right with the German recently. Whether it’s an illness, injury or the lasting effects of an eventful summer with the German national team, Özil has not been in his best form. The former Real Madrid man has already been involved in one reported falling out with Emery so far this season and it may not be the last if his performance level doesn’t improve.
If Özil’s form doesn’t pick up, Emery has a couple of options to look at as a potential replacement. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the obvious candidate in a wider role. The Armenian international has impressed at times this season but most of that has been in a wider role than Özil has been accustomed to. That opens up the door for Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman is a very different type of play to Özil but can fill the void in a central attacking midfield role providing it is alongside a more creative player out wide like Mkhitaryan. There is also the small issue of Ramsey’s contract which is set to expire at the end of the season and there is little to suggest that is changing anytime soon.
But Emery could go in another direction in this position. Alex Iwobi has impressed immensely so far this season, especially in the 3-2 defeat to Chelsea back in August. The Nigerian international missed the victory over Cardiff City through illness but it would have been interesting to see whether or not he would have started ahead of Özil. Iwobi certainly has more in common with the German playmaker than Aaron Ramsey does and seems to be developing well under Emery
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