Arsenal may enter their Europa League tie with Östersunds without a recognised striker.
have predicted that Mesut Özil will lead the line for The Gunners in a false 9 role, rather than in his usual midfield position, with Arsene Wenger’s first choice options Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both missing through being cup tied and injured respectively.
Danny Welbeck and Eddie Nketiah have both travelled to Sweden and are natural strikers, if Özil does get the start up top, you’d have to think it would be a big blow to their confidence and would say a lot about Wenger’s faith in the duo if he opts to play a midfielder over them in their favoured role.
Welbeck has been far from reliable as a front man and has often been deployed out wide when he’s been in the team, he’s not really a natural finisher and lacks a bit of composure when through on goal, he’s also a bit uncoordinated and tends to fall over a lot, sometimes just over his own legs. These are not ideal traits for a striker. Having said that, he’s been around the block and has scored goals for Manchester United, Arsenal and England, it would be surprising if he wasn’t trusted to lead the line against Östersunds.
Nketiah has decidedly less experience than Welbeck, but the 18-year-old is an exciting prospect having scored twice on his only domestic appearance for Arsenal against Norwich in the Carabao Cup earlier this season. Arsene Wenger has often used competitions outside the bread and butter of the league as an opportunity to give game time to some of his younger players. You can understand why he might not want to start Nketiah given how important the Europa League now is for Arsenal and their hopes of playing Champions League football this year, but he’s an intriguing option from the bench.
If Özil is Arsenal’s striker of choice on Thursday evening, it will be fascinating to see how he fares in that unfamiliar role.It could be a boom or bust proposition,Östersunds manager Graham Potter surely wouldn’t have been planning for it, so it could flummox the Swedish side and throw their game plan out of the window, it might be harder to mark Özil if he’s dropping into midfield from his forward position, which could create confusion in the Östersunds defence and open up spaces for other Arsenal players to exploit. There is a danger though of isolating Arsenal’s German playmaker id he is left up front, when really, he needs to be pulling the strings in midfield and creating chances for others, such as Welbeck or Nketiah.
I would still be stunned if there is no natural striker on Arsenal’s starting team sheet, I expect it will be Welbeck given the nod and this would probably be the most sensible decision, but it would be far from the first time that Wenger has surprised us with his line-up if it’s Özil is charged with leading the line.