Predicted XI: Middlesbrough vs Arsenal

Gone are the days when Arsenal fans had the luxury of whinging even after a win, mostly criticising the team selection and how badly they want Lucas Perez to play. These days, all they can do is hope that whoever plays wins the game for Arsenal – quite a turnaround.

Monday night sees Arsenal face yet another relegation threatened opponent, this time Middlesbrough, whom they surprisingly aren’t sure of beating. The Gunners drew a blank the last time they faced the Boro, managing to escape through to a goalless draw, but they can’t afford such a result anymore. Does make the team selection even more important, doesn’t it

So who will Arsene Wenger pick? Does he stick to the same XI or does he change it? Here’s the predicted XI…

GK: Petr Cech

Finally a bit of relief for those concerned with the issues at the back. Petr Cech has been the side’s saviour on countless occasions, so at a time when the back four are all struggling, the Czech should be an immediate inclusion to the squad.

RB: Hector Bellerin

Hector Bellerin wouldn’t have retained his place in the side as much as he has, had there been an equally good replacement. The Spaniard has been all over the place this season, just like his hair, but then again, who does Wenger play in his place?

CB: Shkodran Mustafi

You can’t imagine Arsenal without Shkodran Mustafi at the moment. No matter what kind of a display he puts in, he is one of the most vocal, the most hard-working players on the pitch. How many of those do the Gunners have?

CB: Laurent Koscielny

Another return that’s been looked forward to all this time. Laurent Koscielny represents the team’s backbone and without him, it’s tough for the back four to stay in shape and stay organised. Huge boost.

LB: Nacho Monreal

He had a horrid time against Wilfried Zaha the other night, but a lack of competition means he retains his place too. With reports confirming Sead Kolasinac’s signing, he may just put in a good performance at the Riverside Stadium to remidn Wenger of his quality. 

CM: Mohamed Elneny

Arsenal have missed his energy and ball retention. Although he and Granit Xhaka were both poor in the previous game, Elneny at least makes life more comfortable for his midfield partner, who is expected to pull the strings. No reason why Elneny shouldn’t play tonight. 

CM: Granit Xhaka

Criticise him as much as you like, but he’s one of the best central midfielders in the league on his day. Arsenal need it to be his day against Middlesbrough,  who have the sixth-best defensive record in the league. Lying deep, the Swiss can easily offer the balance Arsenal have missed.

LW: Alexis Sanchez

You can’t even dare to imagine Arsenal playing without Alexis Sanchez right now. He has been everywhere on the pitch all season. Obvious name on the teamsheet, really.

CAM: Mesut Ozil

Arsenal need Mesut Ozil more than ever. The German has had a really dry spell by his own standards, and the sooner that changes, the sooner Wenger’s side can begin with the old late-season surge.

RW: Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott hasn’t had the best of times of late, both on the field and off it. The England international has got to put all that baggage behind him, and ensure a strong finish to what is statistically the best season of his career. Would be more than handy against a slow defence.

ST: Olivier Giroud

It’s Olivier Giroud time for Arsenal. They’ve tried and failed with Danny Welbeck, leaving one and only option. Giroud’s inclusion also means bringing Alexis more in the game by using the former’s hold-up ability. It’s a game designed for Giroud.