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.
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.
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.
Arsenal defender Gabriel once again had a solid performance at right-back in Saturday’s 5-1 win away to West Ham United, and looks a safe bet to deputise while the Gunners are without Hector Bellerin and Mathieu Debuchy.
The athletic Brazilian has featured in the Gunners’ last two Premier League games in the makeshift position, originally coming on against Bournemouth in late November for the injured Debuchy, and is now likely to be a regular until either player returns.
Arsenal welcome Southampton at the Emirates Stadium in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup tonight, and are favourites to come out on top to progress to the last four.
The Gunners are in decent form ahead of their meeting with Southampton and will fancy their chances with home advantage and bragging rights from their win earlier in the season.
Arsenal are coming off the back of six wins and four draws from their last 10 games in all competitions, having picked up points against Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain recently. The Gunners have beaten Championship sides Nottingham Forest and Reading in the third round and last-16 respectively to make it this far in the competition, and will reach the semis if they can edge to victory.
Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has returned to the Gunners’ training camp after undergoing knee surgery in his native land. The former German international will continue his rehabilitation in London and manager Arsene Wenger believes his presence in the camp will give the player a lift.
“We’ve had a welcome addition to the squad recently – Per Mertesacker has returned from a treatment break in Germany. You know Per is a leader in the group, on a mental front as well. That’s the only attribute he can use at the moment but he’s an important part of the dressing room,” said the Gunners boss.