After a disappointing result in the Premier League last weekend, Arsenal are back in action on Thursday night in the first leg of their Europa League quarter final against Slavia Prague.
The Gunners were battered 3-0 by Liverpool in a meek showing, but Europe’s secondary competition offers a route into the Champions League and the opportunity for Mikel Arteta’s side to salvage what has been a disappointing season so far.
However, the Gunners are struggling with injuries, with defenders David Luiz and Kieran Tierney both set for spells on the sidelines. There are further doubts over a number of their young attacking stars.
Here, 90min looks at the team that should start for Arsenal on Thursday night.
Bernd Leno (GK) – The German has proven time and time again his ability as an excellent shot-stopper. Question marks over his distribution and command of his penalty area remain, but Leno is the number one and should start.
Hector Bellerin (RB) – The 26-year-old has been heavily linked with a move away from the club this summer and has been out of favour recently. But with Tierney absent and Cedric Soares likely to fill in at left back, the inclusion of Bellerin makes sense.
Rob Holding (CB) – Enjoyed a good run of performances earlier in the season and formed a strong partnership with Pablo Mari. Having struggled for minutes prior to David Luiz’s injury, he looked extremely rusty at the weekend but being Arsenal’s only available right-sided centre back, he is the natural choice to deputise.
Pablo Mari (CB) – Mari and Holding have already proven they can work well together this season. It’s also probably the right time to drop Gabriel, who had a game to forget against Liverpool.
Cedric Soares (LB) – Playing the Portugal international at left back is far from ideal but with Tierney out, Arteta has no natural replacement to call upon. It’s never easy for a full back to play on his wrong side but the 29-year-old’s experience makes him the best possible replacement.
Granit Xhaka (CM) – Despite the fact he divides opinion among the Arsenal fanbase, even his harshest critics cannot deny Xhaka was sorely missed at the weekend. The Switzerland international brings positional discipline and stability to the midfield. When fit, Xhaka is one of the first names on the team sheet and the weekend proved why.
Thomas Partey (CM) – The Ghanaian has shown glimpses of how influential he can be since joining the Gunners but unfortunately hasn’t always been fit. He and Xhaka make up Arsenal’s strongest midfield pairing.
Emile Smith Rowe (AM) – Martin Odegaard is an injury doubt and his absence would be a blow. However, Smith Rowe has proven this season he is capable of playing the central attacking midfield role brilliantly.
Bukayo Saka (RW) – Given the Gunners’ inability to attack effectively at the weekend, rushing Saka back into the starting XI feels like a necessity. The 19-year-old has been one of Arsenal’s standout players this season and if fit enough he must start.
Nicolas Pepe (LW) – The Ivorian, like pretty much everybody else, was poor at the weekend but when tasked with playing from the left, he’s shown some of his best form in an Arsenal shirt. He and Cedric complement one another and he should start in place of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who deserves to be dropped.
Alexandre Lacazette (ST) – Arsenal’s top scorer in the Premier League this season has shown he should be the focal point of the attack, linking up brilliantly with Smith Rowe and Saka in particular. His all-round play brings much more to the side than Aubameyang’s, going off recent form.