Arsenal will be looking to make it 22 games unbeaten in all competitions when they visit Southampton this weekend, but they will be without their three first choice centre-backs thanks to suspension or injury – will the shortage of defensive options for Unai Emery see that Mesut Ozil will be back in the team?
Emery has favoured a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 approach in recent weeks and has been given little reason to change his ways as his side have taken 10 points from their last four, including a memorable victory over north London rivals Spurs and a hard-fought draw with Manchester United.
However, with Sokratis Papasthathopolous, Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding all ruled out, the Spaniard’s hand may be forced and this may mean we see the return of Mesut Ozil – the German has been left out as of late due to a ‘back spasm’, but was a tactical omission for November’s clash with Bournemouth, after the Gunners boss hinted he may not be up to the physical demands of the occasion.
The aforementioned slew of injuries and bans will surely mean that Emery returns to a back four, as he simply doesn’t have the personnel to field five (or three, depending how you look at it) defenders.
After varied success with a 4-2-3-1 earlier on in the campaign, the inclusion of a third attacking midfielder will surely mean that Ozil returns to the line-up in the number 10 role.
This may prove to be to the Gunners’ advantage as the Saints will most likely try to hit them on the break, therefore putting great numbers behind the ball, so the 30-year-old’s eye for a pass could be crucial to finding their way through the bodies.
If Emery does intend to include Ozil in his plans going forward, then surely Sunday’s trip to St Mary’s presents him with his best opportunity to give the club’s highest-paid player some game time.