After yesterday’s results, Newcastle United arrive at the Emirates with us all hoping the cruellest April Fools joke doesn’t end up being played on us.
The fixture has all the makings of a home banker. We’ve won the last nine at home in the Premier League, they are without a win in their last seven on the road and lost all five of their visits to the other teams in the top six.
Complacency can sit in the stands for this one; the players must be focused on the job in hand. There’s no reason to think they will believe otherwise. It’s the beginning of a tough run of fixtures with a match every three days after the trip to Everton.
That’s thinking too far ahead. A win takes us third in a match Unai believes will “is going to be very difficult.” It’s the usual pre-match spiel; “Newcastle are in a good moment…a lot good players…coach has a lot of experience”, all designed to fuel the players in their preparations.
It’s been three weeks since the last match in the Premier League and four fewer since beating Rennes. The intensity of both performances must be repeated tonight. It’s a time when Emery’s Arsenal sides are at their best; properly focused and in an opponents face from kick-off.
The talk at Friday’s press conference centered on Denis Suarez. Emery made it clear his compatriot is part of his plans despite an extraordinarily slow start:
He is OK for starting in the first XI, to give us this impact. We are going to need everybody, every player for the next matches.Emery on Suarez
Injuries and Suspensions
Suarez’s inclusion may be enforced; Xhaka was missing from the photos of yesterday’s training session while Ramsey is the other major doubt. While I’d expect Guendouzi to drop in for the former, Suarez seems the natural fit for the later.
It depends largely on whether we’re playing with a back four or three. With Torreira banned, Xhaka’s fitness is more pivotal to team selection. I’d guess at a back three if both are missing.
Leno; Mustafi, Koscielny, Sokratis; Maitland-Niles, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Kolasinac; Ozil; Lacazette, Aubameyang
The natural width is from the wing-backs. However, they will need to wary of the threat from Newcastle’s flanks. Rondon is a target man and the barcodes are not averse to slinging in crosses toward him. Koscielny and Sokratis are set for a busy night.
However, the main threat is the players off the main striker; Perez and Almiron. The latter we were, of course, linked with. We always are. Despite being in the Europa League, we’re still the London club everyone is linked with.
Their presence gives the visitors counter-attack some potency, enough to keep us on our toes.
But that’s enough of Newcastle. We’re aiming for third and in a pressure game. We’ll respond; of course we will. Despite being in transition, getting to know new tactics and management, we’re in control of third place. It’s in our hands, our destiny. A win and we’re there for this week; thereafter others must still third from us.
We know it’s not going to be an easy run-in but this, as the first fixture, is eminently winnable. And I expect us to do so, by a couple of goals.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.