By Matt Farr
Arsene Wenger should make the brave decision and axe Mesut Ozil from his starting XI to face Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday evening.
The 28-year-old has looked out-of-sorts in recent weeks, and is goalless in eight games for Arsenal; and Wenger has better options at his disposal at this moment in time.
Lucas Perez is one of those options, and he should be recalled to the line-up as one of three changes from the side that won 2-0 against Hull on Saturday, alongside Granit Xhaka and David Ospina.
Alex Iwobi and Petr Cech should be the two other men to drop out for the Gunners, with eight players retaining their places.
Kieran Gibbs, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez should all stay put.
Although Cech may be considered the better goalkeeper overall, Ospina has performed well when called upon this season.
The 28-year-old stopper played in all six of Arsenal’s Champions League group-stage games, keeping two clean sheets as the Gunners remained undefeated; and deserves to retain his place for the knockout-stages.
The back-four of Gibbs, Koscielny, Mustafi and Bellerin also gives Arsenal their best chance of keeping a clean-sheet against a Bayern Munich side that boast a vast attacking threat in the shape of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben and Douglas Costa.
With defensive stability in mind, Wenger should opt to deploy three central midfielders instead of the usual two, with Coquelin operating as a deeper, defensive-midfield shield.
Xhaka and Oxlade-Chamberlain then provide the link between the defence and attack, possessing pace and power that could unsettle the Germans on their home turf.
The sacrifice of one attacking player could see Wenger part ways with Ozil.
The decision over the German is a tough-one, because based on form, he doesn’t deserve to be in the current side. But he could come up with that game-changing moment to give Arsenal the result they need, so dropping him is a risk.
However, going to the Allianz Arena will be no easy feat, and Arsenal will be expected to chase the ball for much of the game and a three-man midfield is perhaps the best way to go.
Ozil can still be called upon to make an impact off the bench, of course.
As for the front-three, there should be a starting place handed to Lucas Perez – arguably the underrated signing of Arsenal’s transfer window.
The 28-year-old has done exceptionally well since his £17million move to Arsenal in the summer, contributing seven goals and six assists from his 18 appearances in all competitions.
Perez even netted a hat-trick during Arsenal’s final Champions League group-stage game this season, a 4-1 win over Swiss outfit FC Basel.
Walcott and Sanchez should be the two other men in the Arsenal attack, although the likes of Iwobi, Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud could have very important roles to play off the bench.
Given the stage of the competition, there is no league position at stake for Arsenal; instead, their hopes of progressing in the competition rely completely on beating Bayern Munich – something they have struggled to do in recent years.
The first-leg will be played on Bayern’s patch, but either a draw or a win would be a great result to have going into the return leg at the Emirates in March.
In other Arsenal team news, Jamie Redknapp has revealed he has changed his mind about this Arsenal player.