Arsenal: Last-Minute Team News and Potential Starting XI vs. Montpellier

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IINovember 21, 2012

Arsenal take on Montpellier on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League group stage—a must-win game for the Gunners in order to keep their qualification dreams alive.

The North London club come into this one just one point behind Group B leaders Schalke and just one point ahead of Olympiacos heading into Wednesday's matches.

With Schalke and Olymapiacos playing each other, Arsenal know that a win could take them to the top of the group with just one match remaining—a difficult away fixture to Olympiacos, who really need to lose to Schalke this week if the Gunners stand any chance of qualifying.

Arsene Wenger's men come into this one with a stack of confidence having thrashed Tottenham Hotspur 5-2 in their North London derby on the weekend and will be looking to get their attack going at home here—killing off any Montpellier chance before it even gets going.

Read on to find all the latest team news, including those returning from injury, players unavailable for selection and a potential starting side for Arsenal.


Theo Walcott

Arsenal winger/striker—let's just call him a forward—Theo Walcott is ruled out Wednesday's Champions League clash due to injury, according to Fox Soccer.

The England international sustained a leg injury in the win over Tottenham Hotspur on the weekend and will have scans as to the extent of his injury.

Manager Arsene Wenger said that:

The injury he got during the game with his shoulder, we have to scan that today and see if there is no damage.

He will be out for tomorrow [against Montpellier]. It should be short-term.


Per Mertesacker

Wenger was also quick to praise German international Per Mertesacker for his performances this season, stating that the defender didn't deserve the criticism that he received toward the end of last year's Premier League season.

Even with the return of Laurent Koscielny, Mertesacker has managed to hold down his position in central defense—causing a welcome problem for Wenger as to how to best utilize his central defenders, with captain Thomas Vermaelen obviously holding down one position.


Centre back is difficult for people who come from abroad, it was a bit of a shock for him, but this season he has come back very fit, well prepared, and of course knew what the expectations were for him and did extremely well.

This season especially, as you [the media] have noticed, he has been outstanding.

The criticism was always completely unjust. It was overboard, we always say you have to deal with that. There is only one thing you can do as a football player at the top level, and that is to turn the critics down with your performances, and that is what he did.

For the rest, you have to let people say what they want and show on the pitch they are wrong, that is all you can do.


Wojciech Szczesny

The Arsenal starting goalkeeper returned from injury to take the place of Vito Mannone against Tottenham on the weekend and looks set to hold down the starting position against Montpellier this weekend, telling Arsenal's official website how excited he is for the fixture.


We couldn’t get a better time to play that game. We are buzzing today, we can’t wait for the next game [against Montpellier]. We’re confident.

We’ve had a couple of poor results recently, but we’re back on track and we’re confident that we can get the three points and qualify for the knockout stages, which is the least you can ask from us. 

We want to make sure we do the job properly and qualify.


Latest Injury News

Left defender Kieran Gibbs is believed to be in contention for his starting position out on the left flank following his successful return from injury. 

Arsenal posted the news earlier this week via their official Twitter account—stating that Gibbs and midfielder Gervinho have both returned whilst defender Andre Santos will miss the match due to his injury suffered against Tottenham Hotspur.

TEAM NEWS: Gervinho and Gibbs return to squad. Santos injured #AFCvMON

— (@Arsenal) November 20, 2012


Potential Starting XI

With all of that in mind, let's see if we can try and figure out what starting side Arsene Wenger will line up against Montpellier for their Champions League clash.

First off, Arsenal will likely use the 4-2-3-1 formation that they have used in every English Premier League and Champions League match to date (per WhoScored), and thus this starting lineup is based on that formation (see right).

Szcesny will likely hold down his starting position in goal given his comments about being excited to play this match and the fact that he has only just returned from injury himself—making it semi-redundant to be resting the Polish international.

Gibbs should pick up his starting spot this weekend given the injury to Santos whilst Mertesacker and Vermaelen will start in the middle. Koscielny won't be used as a starter, with Wenger perhaps waiting to use him if he rests Mertesacker against Aston Villa on the weekend.

Bacary Sagna will start out at right-back.

The central part of midfield will likely remain the same with Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere playing as defensive midfielders with Santi Cazorla ahead of them.

The trio has been combining well of late, and given the temperamental form of his side this year, Wenger won't break up that partnership unless he has to.

That leaves Lukas Podolski out on the wing and most likely Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain on the right, who will start in place of the injured Theo Walcott. Gervinho could get a starting berth but, given his poor performances of late, is unlikely to be used as anything other than a substitute.

Former Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud will then assume the striker's role at the top of the attack—a role in which he is slowly starting to make his own and assert his dominance through in the English Premier League this season.


Any changes or latest team news for Arsenal vs. Montpellier?

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