The final of England’s greatest cup competition, the FA Cup, takes place this Saturday with the Gunners facing a tough test against the Premier League Champions, Chelsea. It will be a big challenge for Arsenal and I think most fans will be leaning towards pessimism towards the outcome of the match rather than being optimistic. There is of course every chance we may be surprised, however Arsene Wenger’s job has been made an awful lot harder due to the fact there is a big defensive crisis on the cards.
Arsenal fans have had an awful week in which we’ve had to wade through the troublesome task of accepting there will be no champions league football at the Emirates next season. The FA Cup final may put a few smiles on the fan’s faces for the final time this season, but at the moment the defensive crisis looks to be limiting our faith. It raises the debate that with so many defenders unavailable, who will Wenger pick in his lineup?
First of all we have to consider a formation. With the Gunners having used both 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1 this season, I think given the shortage of quality defenders and the success we’ve seen under it, Wenger may go with a 343 formation. It allows the Gunners to be supported in both defence and attack when needed, through the use of wing backs. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain looks set for a return to the squad, but I don’t think he’ll replace Bellerin in the RWB position. I think the Spaniard will keep his place, whilst the Ox may be moved out to the other wing back position, in place of Kieran Gibbs if he doesn’t make the squad as a result of his recent injury concern.
Laurent Koscielny will play no part in the match following on from his suspension and it will be a big blow not to have him in this game. He’s our defensive rock and leads the line so well. We notice how much the team misses him when he doesn’t play, with just Bayern Munich gently reminding the fans just how much of a difference Koscielny can make. Mustafi and Gabriel are also injured, meaning they will play no part.
At the three centre back positions therefore, I think Wenger will go for Mertesacker, Holding and Monreal. It’s not exactly the strongest of back three’s, especially with Mertesacker being slow and out of touch from so little game time this season. Monreal isn’t a centre back by nature and therefore it leaves Holding, who despite being so young and inexperienced, is proving to be a solid option for Arsenal.
The reason why I think Wenger will go with 343 despite the lack of defenders is because although a defence with four players would be more customary with the likes of Bellerin and Monreal playing wide and Mertesacker and Holding in the middle, I don’t think that a pairing of Mertesacker and Holding is particularly strong enough to hold its own. This is especially so against Chelsea and therefore I think the Gunners will need the extra support from the wing backs in a 343, who can help in defence and attack.
What do you think Wenger will go for, in what could be his final Arsenal game this Saturday?