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Wenger must unleash Lacazette, Ozil and Sanchez for Arsenal vs. Spurs

For Arsenal's last Premier League game, Arsene Wenger's team selection was cautious. Although they were considerably weakened at the back against Man City -- as evidenced by the use of Francis Coquelin at centre-half -- the Arsenal manager decided against offsetting that by going as strong as possible up front.

His decision to leave Alexandre Lacazette on the bench raised eyebrows, especially when the club-record signing came on and scored within minutes of his second-half introduction.

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It led to the player's agent after the match publicly denying there were any issues, or that the former Lyon man was unhappy. But even the fact he had to do that, just 11 games into his client's Arsenal career, tells its own story.

When Arsenal face Spurs at the Emirates on Saturday, Wenger has little choice but to do what he does best, which is to send his team out to attack. In recent times he's shown a bit more tactical flexibility, tailoring his team selections to the opposition much more than he did in the past.

Perhaps it's his way of coping with a group of players who can't quite do what he wants them to do from an attacking point of view, and while that change has been welcome -- and at times effective -- he can't escape from his true nature. He doesn't do caution and conservatism very well, simply because that's not who he is.

His teams have always tried to play football with a flourish, and if they are to get the right result against a very well organised and hard-to-break-down Spurs side, he'll need to set them free to try and express themselves.

That doesn't mean it should be an attacking free-for-all, because that would be a recipe for disaster. The Gunners' back three is no more defensively stable than the back four he abandoned late last season, and there remain significant issues in midfield, where the balance has been wrong far too often.

Alexandre Lacazette didn't start against Manchester City, but scored minutes after his second half introduction.

Much was made this week of a statistic that showed Granit Xhaka had made more misplaced passes than any other midfielder this season. Although some of that is down to carelessness and poor form, a significant factor is the fact that the Swiss international is continually left alone and isolated.

It means he's often under pressure, and the sight of him looking up to try and find a forward pass only see a wall of opponents between himself and the nearest Arsenal man has become a feature of this season. Thus, it will require Aaron Ramsey to play closer to his partner, a discipline he is capable of, but one that often deserts him during games.

Arsenal need only look at what Christian Eriksen did to Ireland in midweek to see what can happen if you give time and space, so the midfield duo have a huge amount of work to do together as a unit, not as independent contributors.

The onus then lies on the array of attacking talent Wenger can deploy. Against Everton, Lacazette dovetailed beautifully with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. The trio bagged three goals and two assists as a group, and many hoped it would be the start of something special.

They played against Swansea in an unconvincing win, but when it was time to go to Manchester they were broken up and their momentum halted a bit. It remains the best front three at Wenger's disposal, however, and he has to use it again in the derby.

Concerns over the motivation and commitment of the two contract rebels are understandable to an extent, but when it comes to a game like this, one that means so much to the club and the fans, there can be no doubts. Once they're on the pitch they'll want to win, especially when you consider how it might change the trajectory of the season.

If Arsenal win, they'll close to the gap on Spurs to just a single point, and with that should come some restoration of confidence and belief. Lose and it's seven points, old wounds will be reopened, and as we saw last season, it's not beyond the realms of possibility they could endure another slump in form.

Caution won't win this one for Arsenal. They don't need to be reckless, but they have to do what they do best. It's not defending, it's not playing for a 0-0. It's taking teams apart with their attacking football, and Wenger's starting XI should reflect that.

Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.


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