All Guns Blazing: Theo over Giroud? Wilshere over Cazorla? Who should Arsenal start in FA Cup final?
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In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Uche Amako ponders the big questions ahead of the Gunners’ biggest match of the season.
Whenever you hear Arsene Wenger talk about the Arsenal squad, you get the sense that harmony is at the forefront of his decision making.
He wants the balance and solidity of his team to be perfect and for everyone to be in sync, happy and ready to step in when required.
But as we approach the FA Cup final this weekend, Wenger faces a challenge to maintain the blissful unit he has.
He recently named the same team for six consecutive games before finally changing it up against Sunderland and again versus West Brom on Sunday.
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The match against the Baggies saw Arsenal end a run of three games without a goal. But more importantly, it saw the return of the vibrancy and flair which epitomised their spring time rejuvenation.
Leading the way was Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, whose fresh legs and determination to impress helped ease Arsenal into a 4-0 half-time lead. Both men could not have done more to show Wenger they want a place in the starting XI against Aston Villa.
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However, basic maths means six into four does not work so two from the sextet of Wilshere, Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin will be left disappointed and will have to settle for a place on the bench at Wembley.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also made a brief cameo on Sunday in an effort to stake a claim for a starting role and the equation gets even smaller if we presume Coquelin and Ozil are automatic starters in the holding midfield and No10 position respectively.
Playing alongside Coquelin, Cazorla’s transformation into a deep-lying playmaker has been one of the surprises of the season but a few below-par displays mean he could be under threat from Ramsey or Wilshere.
If Cazorla does keep his place, it leaves Ramsey, Wilshere and Walcott fighting for the right midfield berth. Ramsey has openly admitted his dislike for playing there when he sometimes finds himself on the periphery of matches against teams with a back four.
When playing wide, Wilshere’s natural tendency is to drift inside onto his left foot, but occasionally he can be slack in tracking his man. If Wilshere does start, it must be centrally.
From the centre forward position, Walcott became the first Arsenal man this season to score a hat trick in the league and it could not have come at a better time with Olivier Giroud out of form.
Since his return from injury, Walcott has only started in the same team as Alexis three times which suggests a balance issue for Wenger. In those matches, the pair have rotated between playing wide and up front, never both as wingers.
If Wenger does start Walcott on the bench, could that be the decision which makes the Englishman feel his future lies away from the Emirates?
In some ways having so many players at your disposal to pick from is great but especially when it comes to big games, it must be an unenviable task for someone like Wenger who desires harmony amongst his players.
Whatever happens, the most important thing is for Arsenal to win the match. Aston Villa will be tougher to beat than Hull City last year but given the attacking options Wenger has, whoever he chooses should be good enough to be successful provided the temperament is right on the day.
After the heart-stopping start to last year’s final, a nice comfortable late evening stroll would be great.
Follow me @ucheamako