After what has seemed far too long, Arsenal return to competitive action.
A game versus Newcastle is what awaits after the latest international break, and we can be under no illusions as to how difficult this will be. Newcastle are a difficult side to break down under Rafa Benitez, and our last five games have been decided by a solitary goal.
Still, we can’t lose sight of what lies in front of us. If we continue to win our games, then a top4 spot is ours. This would be a huge success for Unai Emery in his first season, but he will be more than clued up regarding what his side have to do first.
The Toon are pretty much safe from the drop barring a huge slide. Six points separates them from the bottom three, and they have been scoring a few goals of late too.
Will Emery continue to adopt the attacking approach that has served us well recently? Or will he be forced to shuffle his hand through injury or tactics?
Aside from Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck, we have been lucky with injury of late. That again appears to be the case.
Nacho Monreal and Aaron Ramsey were both doubts before this game, but they have appeared in full training and will be available for selection. This may mean though, that Emery makes a change or two, especially with the likes of Guendouzi waiting to step in.
Lucas Torreira is sitting this one out, the second of his three game ban in effect. This aside though, Emery is free to name whatever side he wishes. Lacazette and Aubameyang, as well as Mesut Ozil, have started together in the last few and we have played wonderfully, so the team may closely resemble the last selection.
Player to Watch
The burly striker is coming into his own, and is bagging a few goals. His aerial ability is well documented, but his good first touch and positioning make him a nightmre to pick up. If Ayoze Perez is on song too, we could have a real handful to keep quiet.
How This Could Go
Newcastle will keep it cagey and attempt to unsettle us with some cloistering midfield play. They will stuff the centre of the park and make it difficult for us to transition and stretch. If that is the case, little pockets of space are crucial - so that means Ozil becomes even more crucial.
The German could well be the pivotal player as the game wears on. If the game is goalless as it comes into the second half, I think Ozil will make the difference.
Our defence need to be aware of Ritchie’s excellent deliveries from set plays, as well as the darting runs of the elusive Perez. He creates space for Rondon to pick his spot, and if Sokratis and Koscielny aren’t tight on the striker, we could be made to pay. Also, a lot depends on Xhaka picking up the runs of Perez from deep. Newcastle’s Spaniard is notoriously hard to detect with his timing, and our Swiss midfielder has a responsibility to run a tight ship, especially if his midfield partner is the attack-minded Ramsey.
Mind you, an early goal could give us the pedestal to push on for a really entertaining display.
Regardless, the players need to be aware of the need for maximum points, especially from our home games. With our away form being so flaky, it is a must we bank this game.
Predicted Lineup - Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Predicted Scoreline - 3-1 to The Arsenal