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Arsene Wenger pondering striker selection ahead of Leicester clash

Published 13/02/2016

Theo Walcott, right, and Olivier Giroud are competing to start against Leicester
Theo Walcott, right, and Olivier Giroud are competing to start against Leicester

While title favourites Leicester travel to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday full of goals and high on confidence, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has an attacking dilemma.

The Gunners can close to within two points of the Barclays Premier League leaders with victory in the noon kick-off - but defeat could see them drop as low as fourth by the end of the day.

Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are again likely to provide the thorn in the side for Arsenal's defence, with the Foxes duo combining for 32 league goals and 13 assists this season.

They have been the driving force of a superb squad effort which has seen Claudio Ranieri's side lose just twice in the Premier League so far - with one of those defeats a 5-2 reverse to Arsenal at the King Power Stadium back in September.

But Arsenal's free-flowing, attacking football has been somewhat absent as of late and Wenger had seen his side go almost five and a half hours without a league goal before their 88-second double salvo in the 2-0 win at Bournemouth a week ago.

Olivier Giroud is the only player at the club to break into double figures for league goals, having racked up 12 so far, but the France international has not scored in his last five outings - something Wenger insists he is not troubled by.

"Not so much," he said when asked if Giroud going over a month without a goal was a concern.

"Because on Sunday he gave the ball to Mesut Ozil on the first goal. An assist or goal is, for me, exactly the same for a striker."

Giroud may have temporarily lost his scoring touch and with Alexis Sanchez - who struck a hat-trick in the big win at Leicester - still striving for match sharpness after an injury lay-off over Christmas and New Year, the burden of goals could instead fall on Theo Walcott.

But the England forward has just three league goals this season and has found himself on the bench for the last two Premier League games.

"Recently Theo has gone through a bit of a difficult patch," Wenger explained.

"He's coming back just now and I haven't decided yet. They play very deep so they don't give you a lot of space behind.

"So for us it's always difficult. Do we use one tall guy to force that on the crosses or do we go for a bit more pace?"

Wenger may have that dilemma to contend with at one end of the pitch, but in defence Gabriel has established himself alongside Laurent Koscielny.

Gabriel joined Arsenal just over a year ago but has been the third wheel to an impressive partnership between Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.

But Mertesacker's lack of pace was glaringly obvious when he hauled down Diego Costa to be sent off in the recent defeat to Chelsea and the World Cup winner has not played since.

Gabriel came in for the FA Cup victory over Burnley when Mertesacker served his one-match ban and retained his place for the goalless draw with Southampton and another clean sheet in the win at Bournemouth.

Wenger has admitted the only concern he has over his new pairing is the language barrier, with Gabriel still not fluent in English.

Full-back Nacho Monreal concedes his team-mate must grasp the language as soon as possible but backed the former Villarreal man to get even better when he does.

"It's good that I can speak Spanish with him on the pitch," he told the Arsenal matchday programme.

"But Gabby knows he needs to improve his English because that will make the football easier. Myself, Hector (Bellerin), everyone is helping him every day with it because it's much better for the team.

"It was the same for me when I first arrived. When my English got better, I got better on the pitch too, because when you are playing one of the most important things is confidence.

"If you are confident in yourself, you feel better because you are more relaxed and you feel the authority to correct things you see. You feel more involved in the group."

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