Arsenal host Chelsea at the Emirates on Sunday hoping to secure a crucial win as they look to close the gap on the top four.
The Gunners start the day down in 12th place in the Premier League table, eight points adrift of Chelsea in fourth spot ahead of what is a key showdown.
With back-to-back draws against Everton and Bournemouth, Mikel Arteta and his men have something to build off, but with Chelsea and Man Utd up next, they can ill-afford to slip up if they want to close the gap on their rivals.
Further, they’ll want to make a positive impression in Arteta’s first home game in charge, and so it promises to be a big day for all concerned at the club.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the Spanish tactician has gone with a strong starting line-up, as seen in the club’s tweet below, with all the expected names included.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil all get the nod to lead the charge in attack, but there are two changes to the starting XI that faced Bournemouth.
Calum Chambers and Mateo Guendouzi come in for Sokratis and Granit Xhaka respectively, as confirmed by the Gunners below, while they also noted in a separate tweet that the Swiss midfielder has been ruled out of action due to illness.
However, as seen in the tweets from some fans in response to the line-up, many were left questioning the decision to leave summer signing Nicolas Pepe out.
Having only managed to contribute four goals and four assists in 20 appearances so far this season, that perhaps in itself is enough to make a strong case as to why Arteta has opted to leave him on the bench for such an important game.
That said, if Arsenal are in need of a boost off the bench at some stage, then it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if he looked to Pepe to provide a lift with not a lot of experience elsewhere on the sidelines.
? Two changes from Boxing Day
?? Chambers, Guendouzi
?? Sokratis, Xhaka#ARSCHE
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 29, 2019
— now.arsenal (@now_arsenaI) December 29, 2019
Pepe not starting pic.twitter.com/Ojvl952AdT
— Jack (@jackb1248) December 29, 2019
— Rayaan (@Rayaan85457395) December 29, 2019
PLAY PEPE FFS
— Leander Hatzi (@leahatzi) December 29, 2019
— DonDiaby (@DonDiaby) December 29, 2019
No pepe wtf
— King Auba ? (@Auba_SZN) December 29, 2019