Arsenal couldn’t get anymore from a point out of their stalemate with Palace last time out in what was a very dull affair where we simply couldn’t create chances. The likelihood is that Newcastle will set up in a similar way to sit deep and try and cause problems on the counter attack. As such, here is how we need to line up to find that added creativity in all areas of the pitch.
Leno: Despite Arsenal dominating possession against Palace, it was the heroics of Leno which was the real difference maker. He leapt sensationally to reach Benteke’s header and you know that if Alisson or De Gea had made that save, nobody would have shut up about it
Bellerin: AMN looked poor against Palace. In fairness, he was played on the left side. That being said he just seemed rusty and his passing was very poor. Meanwhile, Bellerin was solid defensively against Palace though did not offer much going forward. AMN has not done enough yet to start, but I’d like to see him at RB at some point so Bellerin doesn’t get too comfortable
Holding: Until we sign a new CB or Saliba comes of age, I’m expecting Holding to be an ever-present in our team. And I am fine with that. He is solid and dependable, and put another good showing against Palace for another cleansheet
Gabriel: He wasn’t risked against Palace but with Mari out again, I think Gabriel has to come back in. David Luiz was a little bit off the pace against Palace. Benteke gave him a hard time in the air and I though his distribution was not quick enough. Gabriel actually helps us be a more creative team because he can drive forward with the ball, allowing Ceballos to often float into more dangerous positions
Tierney: The recent news coming out of Arsenal seems fairly positive regarding Tierney. The results of his scan were positive in that there was no significant muscle damage and it is just a light strain. A late decision will be made on him. As long as he is happy to play, which I’m sure he will be, he has to start. We missed his overlapping so much against Palace. It allowed Aubameyang to always have two players marking him, which really limited our creativity.
Partey: He’s back from injury finally. He got some minutes under his belt. It’s time to start him and get the best out of him. In games like this for Arsenal it will be all about maintaining that pressure as well as possible. When they try and counter attack, we need to be ready to break that up quickly and get back on the front foot. This is Partey’s greatest strength and should help us maintain a really positive attacking output without too much risk
Ceballos: Xhaka has been excellent recently I must admit. But we simply do not need two holding midfielders when we know Newcastle are going to just sit in. Ceballos was actually having a good game against Palace and is on good form too. With Partey next to him in the midfield, he can hopefully occupy those higher positions where he can show his quality
Saka: Saka can stay out on that right hand side. Whilst it didn’t really ever click for him against Palace, I think that was largely because our lineup allowed Palace to get so many bodies centrally that Saka was hugging the touchline all game long. But there is no denying this guy’s credentials. He can be a real difference-maker for us in this game
Emile Smith Rowe: Much like Saka, even Smith Rowe was being forced to drift wide to pick the ball up. This is why it is crucial to have Tierney back and Bellerin needs to start bombing forward again; if your number 10 is being forced to provide your width you know the system isn’t working
Aubameyang: I’d give him the first 45 minutes and see how he does. I think it is harsh to judge him too much for his showing against Palace as nobody played too well, and AMN did little to help him out. Auba scored against Newcastle in the cup and celebrated with pure relief. I’m thinking it may have helped his confidence, therefore to drop him would kill that confidence all over again. That being said, Martinelli is back and fit. If Auba cannot show his class in the first half, I’d have Martinelli ready to come on
Lacazette: This guy is on white hot form, but the service to him against Palace was shocking. We need to get back to the way we played against West Brom and Chelsea, where this guy wasn’t forced to drop into central midfield to get a touch of the ball
Normally, I am fairly forgiving when Arteta makes to odd change or two, but this is a crucial game and the last of a serious of ‘easier’ fixtures. We have to win, otherwise any hopes we may have had of a resurgence and a climb back up the table could be dead in the water. If we look at our rivals, Chelsea and Spurs both have tough games to end the first half of the season against Leicester and Liverpool respectively. If we win this game and Chelsea and Spurs fail to do so, we can move to 2 points behind Chelsea and just 6 behind Spurs. That is not a bad place to be considering they are two sides who have been talked about as title-contenders, whereas we were at one point being tipped for relegation.