Arsenal: Midfielder in-line for Sunderland start; EFL Cup draw; Iwobi's new position
Arsene Wenger sang the praises of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain following Arsenal’s 2-0 EFL Cup win, and the Enlgand international could be handed a league start at Sunderland on Saturday. According to Jeremy Wilson in the Daily Telegraph, Wenger is seriously considering starting him at the Stadium of Light ahead of Alex Iwobi. The Nigerian has been an integral part of Arsenal’s forward line this season and Wenger is delighted by his progress. Iwobi is particularly adept at stepping inside and receiving the ball between the lines and is comfortable enhancing passes with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. However, just 20, Iwobi has played plenty of games already including 90 minutes against Reading on Tuesday. Wenger must guard against overburdening him and therefore he is considering starting Chamberlain. The report in the Telegraph states:
“Although Wenger has been delighted by Iwobi’s contribution this season and believes that he has a huge future at the club, he did start him in the League Cup on Tuesday while resting Walcott, Ozil and Sanchez. Olivier Giroud is also now back as an option, while Aaron Ramsey should again be available imminently. Oxlade-Chamberlain has already scored more goals this season than in any of his previous five with Arsenal and naturally hopes that his League Cup performance against Reading on Tuesday will encourage Wenger to now start him against Sunderland.”
Chamberlain gives Arsenal a completely different option as opposed to Iwobi, but it would change the balance of their front three. Iwobi brings a creative presence to counterbalance the pace of Sanchez and Theo Walcott on the other flank, and fits into the style of Arsenal’s football ideally. Chamberlain is more of an individualist, who wants to beat opponents in one on one situations. This can be a very effective weapon against deep-lying defences, but can lead to Arsenal’s passing be a little less fluent without another creative player on the flank.
Elsewhere, the major news of last night was Arsenal’s home draw against Southampton in the EFL Cup quarter-final. Any home draw in the cup competitions is welcome, and gives Wenger’s side a good chance to progress to the semi-finals. The line-up for the last four could be very appetising indeed, with Liverpool and Manchester United also given home draws. However, only Spurs and Leicester have accumulated more Premier League points than Southampton in 2016, and the Saints have caused Arsenal problems in the past.
Finally, Wenger has been talking about how Iwobi’s future at Arsenal could be in the number 10 position. Ozil is the undisputed incumbent of this position, but Iwobi has the awareness and appreciation of space to occupy the role. The Frenchman likes to blood young players in the wings, so it is a real show of faith from him to play Iwobi through the middle. Wenger said:
“You see that he is not a typical winger. I think he can play in that role.
“He turns the game forward, he passes the ball through the lines very well, he has a final ball in him.
“I think he has all in the locker to pass and give the final ball.”
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