Arsenal’s Christmas Challenge

Arsenal Football Club has had an inconsistent season so far to say the least. Often shrouded by news regarding the futures of manager Arsene Wenger and star men Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, their displays at times leave plenty to be desired.

There have been a few false dawns this season like their two nil victory over archrivals Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates – the first since Mauricio Pochettino took over at their North London rivals – but such performances have been few and far between for the Gunners in recent times.

Despite their mightily impressive home form that has seen them win 13 out of their last 14 Premier League home matches, a run of only 2 away victories so far this season has been a source for concern amongst fans who have been betting on Arsenal.

Their poor away form has proven to be their undoing so far this season has The Gunners are currently outside the top 4 in fifth. Another finish outside the top 4 will prove to be disastrous for the club as it is already difficult enough to attract quality players to The Emirates and even to keep their current stars – as is the case with Ozil and Sanchez who are seemingly running down their current contracts with the club ahead of summer moves away.

Ahead of a defining set of fixtures to end the year, Wenger’s men need to start performing at their best to keep their hopes of a top 4 finish alive. Trips to Crystal Palace and West Brom (grounds where they faced defeats last season) follow a very crucial home match against Liverpool who are currently 1 point ahead of The Gunners in fourth.

The last meeting between these two sides came on August 27th at Anfield, which saw Arsenal totally torn apart by Liverpool’s blistering attack. A 4-0 defeat to a rival so early in the season did nothing to inspire confidence in the team for fans who had already been calling for the manager’s ‘head’.

Arsene Wenger has since steadied the ship, with a semi-final berth in the Carabao cup already secured as well as a place in the knockout stages of the Europa League (a competition that offers another route into the Champions League for the winners) and as was established earlier are within touching distance of the much-coveted top 4 places.

There are a few absentees for The Arsenal ahead of Friday’s mega clash at The Emirates. Olivier Giroud will be missing from the squad as he picked up a hamstring injury in midweek’s Carabao Cup victory over West Ham United. Aaron Ramsey has been ruled out until the New Year at least, with the same injury as Giroud but defender Shkodran Mustafi has returned to the squad having recovered from a thigh injury in a timely boost to the manager.

The veteran manager is set to stick with a back four after abandoning the back three system that served them so well towards the backend of last season. The Gunners defense will have to be extremely focused to deal with Liverpool’s ‘fab four’ of Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and the leagues’ top scorer Mohamed Salah.
The predicted lineup should see, Petr Cech in goal, in defense; Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Saed Kolasinac. In central midfield, Granit Xhaka and Jack Wilshere – in place of the injured Aaron Ramsey.

The attack will see, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alex Iwobi as the trio behind center forward Alex Lacazette.
It promises to be a very intriguing match, which offers a chance for The Arsenal to stake their claim for a top 4 finish and also a chance to attain vengeance for the demolition at Anfield.
A run of victories in their next three fixtures could see The Gunners firmly placed on the log ahead of another massively important game against Chelsea three days into the New Year at The Emirates.

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