Xhaka returns, no room for Pepe: Arsenal’s predicted line-up vs Southampton – opinion

This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…

So with the international break now over, Arsenal are back in Premier League action against Southampton on Saturday afternoon, knowing that anything but a win against the relegation battlers will suffice.

The Gunners have been on a wretched run of form in recent weeks, and are without a win in their previous five games across all competitions. And with their north London rivals Tottenham taking decisive action over Mauricio Pochettino in the build-up to this weekend, the pressure has well and truly gone up on a notch on Unai Emery.

The Arsenal manager has a lot of key decisions to make on how best to deliver a victory, and below is a look at just how the Spaniard may plan on doing just that.

Arsenals potential line up to face Southampton - Xhaka returns, no room for Pepe: Arsenal's predicted line-up vs Southampton - opinion

Having returned to a back-three against Leicester before the international break, Emery may well stick with the formation against the Saints on Saturday. Though the Gunners eventually succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to Brendan Rodgers’ side, they did keep the Foxes out for 68 minutes (which probably says a lot about the state the north Londoners find themselves in).

An injury doubt over Rob Holding could mean Sokratis gets drafted in, whilst Kieran Tierney’s absence from the Scotland squad was again down to helping him build up his fitness with the Gunners. In midfield, is where things could get really interesting with Emery’s potential decision-making.

The ex-PSG boss revealed in his pre-match press conference that he is keen to reintegrate former club captain Granit Xhaka back into the mix, saying “he is coming back better in his mind, his mindset is better to help us and to be closer to playing when we need him.” If the Swiss man were to return, it would be his first appearance in a Gunners shirt since the now infamous altercation with the Emirates fans against Crystal Palace.

Up front, the use of both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a strike partnership could once again see the club’s record signing Nicolas Pepe miss out, whilst Mesut Ozil will be hoping he will be the beneficiary of Emery desperately needing a win.

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