The three-month break from football appears to be on the brink of ending and now would be the best time for Mikel Arteta to reconsider what his best starting eleven will be for the ten games left in the 2019/20 campaign.
Arteta was missing a number of players prior to the mid-season break but with nearly three months of recovery now gone, the Arsenal boss will be hoping that much of his squad is available for selection.
In goal, Bernd Leno is bound to keep his place as the first choice shot-stopper after a string of impressive displays which made him one of the potential candidates for the end of season awards.
At right-back, Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ inability to keep up with Arteta’s training demands, combined with the return of Hector Bellerin prior to the break, means the Spaniard should be the one starting.
On the opposite flank at left-back, Bukayo Saka – whose superb performances have helped revive the team’s form – has to retain his place in the side even though Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac may be back. In between the full-backs is the most compelling debate and that is about what the best centre-back pairing is.
Considering their form in games against Portsmouth and West Ham right before the season was halted, David Luiz and Pablo Mari should continue their promising partnership at centre-back.
In midfield, Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka, who bring more leadership and dynamism to the pitch than the likes of Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos, should be the pairing that Arteta picks.
Based on the sheer pace and trickery they offer in the opposition’s box, Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli should be the men that the manager deploys on the wings.
Finally, the front two must consist of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang – who is perhaps the first name on the team sheet due to his prolific scoring form – and Eddie Nketiah, a youngster far more efficient at being a poacher than the misfiring Alexandre Lacazette is.
Bellerin – Luiz – Mari – Saka
Pepe – Xhaka – Torreira – Martinelli
Aubameyang – Nketiah