How Arsenal Will Line Up Against Hull City

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How Arsenal Will Line Up Against Hull City
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As Arsenal move into a congested period in their schedule with a four-point lead at the top of the table to protect, squad rotation will be crucial.

Arsene Wenger used something like a full-strength squad against Cardiff City at the weekend, and Arsenal will play Everton and Napoli in the next seven days. The latter will decide whether the team will advance in the Champions League.

Hull are several places above Cardiff in the Premier League table, but they only have four more points than the Bluebirds and should be a side that Wenger can risk some backup players against.

Luckily, Arsenal now have the genuine depth they have not had in recent seasons, inspiring confidence even when a regular starter is out. In this case, Wenger will be able to call upon a less-used contingent that is still quite capable of competing at a very high level.

In goal, though, nothing will change. Wojciech Szczesny showed once again last weekend that he is the key stabilizer at the heart of Arsenal's defense. The Pole is the most in-form goalkeeper in the Premier League at the moment and has solidified his place in the team perhaps more than any other Gunner.

Though it is not mentioned much, a large part of Arsenal's defensive success and consistency during the last several months has been due to the fact that the same core group has been used. But Wenger now has the opportunity to rotate his squad before key players are needed in bigger fixtures.

Bacary Sagna should still start on the right ahead of Carl Jenkinson, and Per Mertesacker will most likely assume his unique role as the calm pacemaker of the defense.

But this is a perfect opportunity for Laurent Koscielny to be given a rest and Thomas Vermaelen to be given a chance to prove his worth. The Belgian was remarkably solid against Manchester United a couple weeks ago, and, though certainly not as well-rounded as Koscielny, is perfectly capable of slotting into the left center-back position.

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On the left, Nacho Monreal should be given the chance to follow up on his superb display against Marseille that was denied him against Cardiff last weekend.

Monreal's dynamic, spirited performance a week ago merited an encore, and with a week of rest under his belt, there is no better time to give him that opportunity.

Wenger would also be wise to structure his midfield similar to how it was against Marseille, with Mathieu Flamini in for Mikel Arteta in defensive midfield and Jack Wilshere just ahead of him.

The team will not be devoid of leadership because of Vermaelen's return, and Flamini will give the Gunners enough grit to enable more creative and offensively industrious players the license to push forward.

In this system, Aaron Ramsey will be provided with a much-needed rest ahead of a period when his dynamism and form will be in much more demand.

His brace last weekend was superb, but the hardest-working player in the team needs to be given a breather after playing virtually every minute of Arsenal's recent matches.

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In Ramsey's place will be Wilshere, who appears to be on the road back to his best, even if he is not there quite yet. Reinserting him into central midfield instead of mooring him on the right wing will help Wilshere find his best form.

After a few matches of fitness-building, it is time for Theo Walcott to return to the right wing from the opening whistle, as he has for several different Arsenal teams. The Gunners have sorely missed his pace, and even the exertions of Bacary Sagna and Wilshere have not been able to compensate.

The width he provides will be welcome, as will the sharpness that can only come from playing full matches. There will be no better opponent for Arsenal to reintroduce Walcott against in the short-term than Hull.

In the middle will once again be Mesut Ozil, who appears to finally be assuming the responsibility his transfer fee and reputation command.

His last couple games have been outstanding displays of all-around excellence—heavy involvement in attacking play and unceasing creativity. His brilliant through-ball to Flamini last weekend sealed victory when it seemed impossible for Arsenal to add another goal.

When Ozil arrived, mouths watered at the prospect of him linking up with Santi Cazorla. But, for whatever reason, the Spaniard has failed to find anything close to the form that made him Arsenal's most important player last season.

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Now, Cazorla drifts about on the left flank, toiling in anonymity for much of matches and failing to create much when he does receive the ball.

He will probably emerge from this rough patch before long, but luckily, Arsenal have the perfect man to compensate for Cazorla's dip in form: Tomas Rosicky.

Rosicky is a very similar type of player and thus would not disrupt Wenger's system in any way. He and Ozil could swap roles as the flow of the game dictates, and the former's boundless energy allows him to press the opposition into submission, giving Arsenal a critical defensive edge.

And, as usual, the man spearheading it all will be Olivier Giroud.

Hull are a side of sufficient mediocrity where Theo Walcott could lead the line and give Giroud a break, but Wenger has not seemed inclined to give Walcott opportunities up front since the latter signed a contract extension last January.

While trying Walcott at striker would be the best option if Arsenal wish to adequately prepare for their next, more difficult, fixtures, this would be the better choice. Wenger, though, prefers to stick to the status quo—and, in this instance, he is lucky to have excellent options.

Perhaps Giroud will be reinforced in January, but with this lineup behind him, Arsenal can feel confident he will be able to lead an attack that can snatch all three points at home in a winnable fixture.

 

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