COMMENT By Alex Taylor
Shkodran Mustafi should come straight into the Arsenal starting XI against Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
The Gunners welcome the Saints to the Emirates for a 3pm kick-off as they target their second win of the season.
Mustafi, 24, joined the Gunners in August for a fee believed to be in excess of £35million and filled a gaping hole in Arsene Wenger’s back-four, following Per Mertesacker’s pre-season injury.
The new signing should partner Frenchman Laurent Koscielny at centre-back for the first time if the north London outfit are to stand their strongest chance of keeping a clean sheet and winning the game.
To complete the best possible defensive line-up, the central pairing should be flanked by the trusted Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal at right and left-back respectively, in-front of former Chelsea shot-stopper Petr Cech in goal.
Granit Xhaka should also be given the nod to start the fixture, occupying the deepest role of the midfield three.
The Switzerland international suffered his seventh red card in two years against Portugal in the international break, but despite his poor disciplinary record the 23-year-old has the potential to become the driving force of his side’s Premier League campaign this season.
The return of Santi Carzola from injury means Wenger must be careful not to rush the Spaniard back to the first-team too quickly, but following the loss of Jack Wilshere to Bournemouth this summer, the former Malaga talisman now represents Arsenal’s most capable creative midfield player.
The front three should be made up of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott. The trio have a wealth of experience playing together and their link-up play will prove vital in determining the outcome of the weekend’s clash.
Reports have circulated that Lucas Perez will receive his full Gunners debut but the Saints have formed themselves into one of the most rigid and well organised teams in England’s top-flight and the fixture will prove too much too soon for the new man in north London.
In other Arsenal team news, the Gunners have begun defender talks.