Predicted Arsenal XI to play Cardiff City - Time to start Podolski?

Match to be played on Wednesday 1st January 2014 at 15:00. Venue: Emirates Stadium, London.

Arsenal will be looking to back up their win against Newcastle United when they host Cardiff City on New Years Day.

It was a very important away win for the Gunners at St James Park because Chelsea and Manchester City are snapping at the heels of the North London side as the Premier League title race is about to hit the second half of the season.

The Gunners are missing several key players including key midfielders Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey but Arsene Wenger can still name a strong side for the fixture. Here’s the team he may go with.

GK – Wojciech Szczesny

Despite the recent howler at West Ham United, the Pole has been in very good form this season. He seems very confident knowing that he’s the number one at the club and the Gunners don’t have much reason to look for another shot stopper.

RB – Bacary Sagna

The Frenchman is a key component of the back four because he offers consistency and strength to the defence. He gets forward well to support the midfield and attack which helps Arsenal maintain pressure on the opposition.

CB – Per Mertesacker

Mertesacker is a very key player in the back four. Defensively he has a great deal of experience which allows Arsenal to retain a good defensive shape and he’s a leader, which is important for when things go wrong.

CB – Laurent Koscielny

Koscielny should take his regular slot beside the big German in the back four. He has greater pace, which allows him to cover for Mertesacker who will often step up and take a few more risks.

LB – Kieran Gibbs

Gibbs has turned himself into the primary left-back at the club this season. He’s got great pace going up and down his side of the pitch which allows him to be effective in defence and also in attack.

RM – Theo Walcott

Walcott’s return has had a big effect on the Arsenal midfield because he gives the side a useful injection of pace. Arsenal won’t be doing much counter attacking in this game so the emphasis in this game is going to be on Walcott beating the left-back.

DM – Mathieu Flamini

Flamini likes nothing more than to patrol those areas in front of the defence, looking to mop the play up and win back possession before offloading to more creative players in better attacking positions.

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CM – Jack Wilshere

Wilshere has created his entire reputation on playing in central midfield for Arsenal. He’s more than good enough to control the rhythm and pace of Arsenal’s play and he can cover multiple positions across the middle.

AM – Santi Cazorla

Cazorla has played predominantly on the left this season but this could be a good chance for him to come inside to a more central position. He can roam the spaces in behind the main striker.

LM – Lukas Podolski

Podolski has been purring around the first team for the last couple of weeks and Arsene Wenger could use Cardiff as an excuse to give him a start. He’ll be fresh and chomping at the bit to win his starting role back consistently.

ST – Olivier Giroud

Until Arsene Wenger makes a high profile striker signing, Giroud is going to be Arsenal’s main man in attack. He’ll be confident following the performance at Newcastle and stands every chance of adding to his tally.

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