Picking the Right Arsenal XI to Face Bayern Munich at the Emirates
Arsenal's FA Cup defeat against Blackburn could not have come at a worse time.
Still rocking from exiting one cup competition, they now need to find the form and focus to deal with a Champions League tie against Bayern Munich.
With Premier League leaders Manchester United well out of reach, the Champions League represents Arsenal's last chance of ending their trophy drought this season. Gauging by the recent performances of the two clubs, it is a slim chance at best.
If Arsenal are to have any chance whatsoever, it is imperative that Arsene Wenger selects the right team. Over the next few slides we analyse the key selections he must make if Arsenal are to have any chance of progressing against the German giants.
Drop the Deadwood
Arsene Wenger opted to rotate his squad against Blackburn, giving rare opportunities to fringe members of his squad.
For the most part, they failed to impress.
Tomas Rosicky was a rare bright spark, but alongside him Abou Diaby was ponderous in midfield, dwelling on the ball and failing to recapture his outstanding form of the early part of the season.
On the flanks, Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both looked bereft of confidence, and offered nothing like the attacking threat usually provided by Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott.
Arsene Wenger will want to turn to more familiar faces for the visit of one of Europe's most dangerous sides.
Bring Back the Germans
It is telling that neither Per Mertesacker nor Lukas Podolski played a single minute of football this weekend. Arsene Wenger is obviously keen to have them well-rested for the visit of their countrymen.
It is essential that this pair are selected. Arsenal's defence is never entirely reliable, but it has looked sturdiest with Mertesacker at the heart of it. His organisational skills will be invaluable against Bayern's potent attack.
Podolski has now failed to start any of Arsenal's last three games. He will be desperate to put an end to that run against Bayern, the club he played for between 2006 and 2009. His time at Bayern was largely perceived to have been a failure, so he'll be particularly keen to make an impact against his former team.
Play Thomas Vermaelen at Left-Back
Left-back has fast become the most problematic position in the Arsenal squad.
First Kieran Gibbs picked up a thigh injury to rule him out of the Bayern game and beyond. Wenger reacted by bringing in Nacho Monreal, but the Spaniard is cup tied in European competition. Since then, the Arsenal manager has also allowed Andre Santos to join Gremio on loan.
It seems he will now have to field his captain, centre-half Thomas Vermaelen, at full-back.
There are other options: He could shift the versatile Bacary Sagna across, but that would mean having to field Carl Jenkinson, who was sent off on his last appearance in an Arsenal shirt. Alternatively, he could call on Francis Coquelin, but he has only played a handfull of games in what is really a specialist role.
Vermaelen has the experience, the temperament and the knowledge to make a good first job of playing left-back. He might prefer to be in the centre, but as captain he will have to put the team first in this instance.
The Final XI
Here is the Arsenal XI best suited to take on Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium.
On paper, it is a strong side. Kieran Gibbs is the only major absentee from what Arsene Wenger would probably term his best XI.
There is the possibility that he will introduce Aaron Ramsey at the expense of either Olivier Giroud or Theo Walcott, but with the onus very much on Arsenal to establish a first leg lead, I don't think he'll be as conservative as that.
Bayern Munich will provide a huge test for Wenger's side. However, Arsenal will be fuelled by desire to win back the trust of their fans after the humiliation of the Blackburn result.
It should be a fascinating encounter.