COMMENT By Tony Hughes
Arsenal’s Champions League clash against Basel on Wednesday is the perfect opportunity to pair Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny in central midfield.
The duo have watched from the sidelines in recent weeks as Arsene Wenger has showed faith in his favoured duo of Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin.
But a knee injury to Coquelin, and a winnable fixture which presents the opportunity to give Cazorla a breather, is deal to field the ex-Basel duo against the club where they made their names.
Summer signing Xhaka is not so much knocking on the door as banging it down, while Elneny’s energy and enterprise also makes him a seductive selection.
With the attacking players in such outstanding form in the last three matches, the path back to the team for Olivier Giroud must be temporarily blocked.
The same applies to Lucas Perez, even though he served notice of his potential with a clinical double against Nottingham Forest last week.
One attacker who should start against Basel is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has lost out to the brilliant youngster Alex Iwobi in recent weeks.
Nevertheless, the younger of the two Alex’s should be held in reserve on Wednesday as Wenger makes full use of his squad.
Wenger is loathe to rotate his defenders in the early months of a season and should stick with the back four who contributed to Arsenal’s clean sheet in their masterclass against Chelsea last weekend.
A fourth change should be in goal, with Petr Cech demoted for a second consecutive Champions League match to the bench in favour of his deputy David Ospina.
That might be regarded as unnecessary by many supporters given the consistency of Cech, but most elite clubs have two leading keepers and it is important to keep them mentally fresh.
Ospina responded to the surprise call-up in the opening group match against Paris Saint-Germain with an outstanding display that ensured his team returned to England with a valuable point. He deserves another opportunity.
Alexis Sanchez has taken on the central striker role for six of the team’s seven Premier League and Champions League matches this season and his mobility, inventiveness and clinical finishing should mean Wenger sticks with him as the point of the attack.
In other Arsenal team news, Wenger is ready to let this young star out on loan to get more first-team football.