EPL Preview: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Everton
Arsenal will aim for their ninth Premier League victory, and the potential of breaking into the prestigious top four for their first time in 2011/2012, when they encounter a doughty Everton outfit at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners' fringe and reserves were handed a 3-1 defeat by Greek champions Olympiacos in a futile UEFA Champions League encounter but have still recorded nine wins in their last 13 matches, including a recent 4-0 thrashing of Wigan Athletic.
Everton will provide a stern test for Arsene Wenger's men, the Toffees' have suffered successive Premier League defeats and now sit 10th and will be eager to reinforce their winning ways. David Moyes's men have not beaten a side in the top eight this season.
However, Arsenal are in form despite recent cup losses and their full strength starting XI is capable of triumphing over any team in England, particularly at home.
With the UEFA Champions League round of 16 qualification secured and not a problem till February, the full focus is on maintaining their English Premier League form, and achieving a top four finish.
A victory over Everton is the perfect way for Arsenal to forget all about their recent defeats, but will Everton inflict Merseyside Blues to the Gunners' red Christmas?
As always, Bleacher Report predicts the Arsenal starting XI.
Arsenal's defeat to Olympiacos came largely down to the absence of first-choice keeper Wojciech Szczesny, who was rested for the encounter. However, the Polish international will be reinstated for the Everton match.
Deputy Lukasz Fabianski, who was forced off during the Olympiacos match with a gashed knee, is set to still be lacking essential fitness and will not feature. This ensures Italian youngster Vito Mannone, whose error was pivotal in the Arsenal defeat, will receive the substitute keeper role.
Veteran Manuel Almunia continues to wait for a move in January.
Defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen is set to start at left-back after it emerged Brazilian international Andre Santos will be absent for three weeks following an ankle injury sustained against Olympiacos. Santos joins England international Kieran Gibbs on the sidelines ensuring no recognised senior left-back for Wenger.
However, Vermaelen is more than capable of fulfilling the role which enables Laurent Koscielny to shift into the centre-half role to partner German giant Per Mertesacker. Imposing Swiss Johan Djourou will continue as the makeshift right-back.
Renowned Frenchman Bacary Sagna is still over a month away from returning from a broken ankle suffered in October whilst deputy right-back Carl Jenkinson is expected to return to fitness at the end of the month. Spanish teenager Igansi Miquel, who has impressed with limited first-team opportunities, is expected to be named on the bench, whilst veteran Sebastien Squillaci is set to miss out.
The inexperienced midfield that faced Olympiacos is unlikely to return to haunt the Gunners' as midfield leader Alexandre Song will return as the Arsenal defensive midfielder. Wales captain Aaron Ramsey is set to partner Spanish playmaker Mikel Arteta as the attacking midfielders.
French youngster Francis Coquelin is set to make the substitutes bench whilst Ghanaian teenager Emmanuel Frimpong is likely to miss out. Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky and Israeli captain Yossi Benayoun are set to bolster the substitutes bench with experience and vitality.
Imposing Frenchman Abou Diaby is still absent with a hamstring injury, sustained weeks after returning from a lengthy ankle problem, however the 25-year-old is expected to be fit next week. England international Jack Wilshere is still around two months before a return. Dutch teenager Oguzhan Ozyakup is unlikely to be considered.
Arsenal captain Robin van Persie, who is currently considered the best striker in World Football, will aim to add to his 39 goals in 43 appearances for 2011 as he leads the Gunners' front line. Ivorian forward Gervinho, who was rested for the Olympiacos loss, will return to the left wing whilst England international Theo Walcott will also be reinstated on the right.
Who Will Conquer?
Russian dynamo Andrei Arshavin and imposing Moroccan Marouane Chamakh, who is seriously out of form, are likely to receive the remaining bench roles. South Korean captain Chu Young Park and teenage sensation Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who continues to impress with every game, are likely to miss out. Japanese teenager Ryo Miyaichi is still nursing an ankle injury.
With seven roles on Wenger's bench, Vito Mannone is set to be the backup keeper, Igansi Miquel the emergency defender and Francis Coquelin the versatile presence. Tomas Rosicky, Yossi Benayoun, Andrei Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh are the likely attacking options.
A tough challenge for the Gunners' but one they will be expected to win.
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