Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has a selection headache ahead of Saturday’s Premier League meeting with Stoke City, with striker Lucas Perez pushing for his second start in the division after signing from Deportivo La Coruna in the summer. The Spaniard scored a hat-trick in Arsenal’s 4-1 win over FC Basel in the Champions League and could well operate on the right flank this weekend.
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According to various reports, Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin could return in time to make the matchday squad for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Stoke City. The Spanish right-back has been out of action for a number of weeks with an ankle injury, but is undergoing a late fitness test to decide if he’ll make the 18-man squad.
Bellerin, 21, picked up in the injury late in Arsenal’s North London derby clash with Tottenham Hotspur in November, and has missed the Gunners’ last three Champions League group games against Ludogorets Razgard, Paris Saint-Germain and FC Basel and their last three Premier League encounters against Manchester United, Bournemouth and West Ham United.
According to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger the Gunners will not sell star players Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, even if they fail to agree contract extensions with the north London club. There has been much speculation over the future of the pair in recent months.
Both of the Gunners star players have will have just 12 months left on their contract next summer, which would make them very attractive to prospective buyers.
Linked with a number of clubs
The last six seasons have been a very similar story for Arsenal in the Champions League. The Gunners finished second in their group then end up being knocked out of the competition in the last-16 of the competition.
The Gunners 4-1 victory at Basel, coupled with PSG failing to beat Bulgarian side Ludogorets has given Arsenal a perfect chance to put right some of the wrongs of the past. Arsenal won their group and it should give them an easier draw in the knockout stages.
Maybe not such a comfortable draw
The impressive 4-1 triumph over FC Basel that secured Arsenal first place in their Champions League group has served as yet another proof that Arsene Wenger has some very good back-ups for most first team regulars.
The lack of strength in depth combined with Arsenal’s trademark injury crisis proved a major issue in recent years, but the manager and his associates have done well to address the problem this season.
While keeping hold of most players from the previous campaign, the Gunners added the likes of Granit Xhaka, Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez to their ranks, thus seriously increasing competition for starting positions.
Arsenal sealed top spot in Group A of the Champions League after winning 4-1 away to FC Basel, while previous leaders Paris Saint-Germain relinquished their place at the summit after drawing with FC Ludogorets Razgrad on Tuesday evening. The Gunners now are hopeful of an easier last-16 draw against a runner-up in the group, but who could they face?
Arsene Wenger’s side can’t face a runner-up from their own group (Paris Saint-Germain) nor can they face a runner-up from their own country (Manchester City). Of sides Arsenal can face, Benfica, Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen are confirmed runners-up of Group B, Group D and Group E respectively.
Arsenal striker Lucas Perez scored a hat-trick as the Gunners thrashed FC Basel 4-1 at St. Jakob-Park on Tuesday night, sealing their place in the last-16 of the Champions League as Group A winners. The 28-year-old scored twice in the first 16 minutes of the game, and sealed his treble minutes after the restart.
Manager Arsene Wenger gave the former Deportivo man a full 90 minutes on the night, and now has a selection headache ahead of Saturday’s clash with Stoke City. Perez’s first goal came in the 8th minutes, courtesy of a pull back from Kieran Gibbs that the Spaniard could hard miss from close range.
Arsenal are hoping to snatch top spot in their final Champions League group game as they travel to face Swiss side FC Basel at St. Jakob-Park tonight. The Gunners could leapfrog leaders Paris Saint-Germain in the group if they better the result of the Parisians, and should at least win against Basel given the hosts’ woeful form in Europe this season.
FC Basel are currently bottom of Group A with two points from five games, having suffered three defeats from their last four. The home side have scored just two goals too, and have kept only one clear sheet in the Champions League – against fellow strugglers Ludogorets Razgrad, so Arsenal will fancy their chances of getting a result.
Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker is targeting a January return after having come back into training. The German centre-back has been out of action since the summer with a knee injury but could play a part for the Gunners in the second-half of the campaign when he’s expecting to be back to full fitness.
“I’m hopeful that I can join the team properly and be available to the team next year. That’s my resolution. I want to be back on the pitch and with the ball. I’m able to run now, painless, and it’s what it’s all about. When you are able to run again after such a long time it makes you feel happy,” said Mertesacker.
Arsenal may have thrashed West Ham United 5-1 in Saturday’s Premier League clash at the Olympic Stadium, but manager Arsene Wenger will mindful how reliant the Gunners were on playmaker Mesut Ozil, winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and centre-forward Alexis Sanchez for creativity.
Deep-lying midfielder Granit Xhaka provided little going forward, highlighted by centre-back Shkodran Mustafi creating more chances than him at the Olympic Stadium, and the summer-signing needs to produce more in Santi Cazorla’s absence to ensure Arsenal can break down better opposition this season.