Arsenal take on Newcastle at the Emirates Stadium on Monday night in the last of the weekend’s Premier League fixtures. The Gunners will be looking for their tenth straight victory at home to help them pull away from the chasing pack in the race for the top four.
Standing in their way is a resolute Newcastle United side who have hit a good run of form themselves and will be looking to build on recent results by taking something away from north London. One thing we know about Rafa Benitez’s teams is that they are difficult to break down, especially away from home. Unai Emery will need to find a way to unlock this defence on Monday night if his side are to take all three points.
With Manchester United defeating Watford at home on Saturday, the Gunners find themselves in fifth spot when this game kicks off and the tension will build the longer Arsenal go without scoring. It could take something special from the home side to create clear cut chances and Emery is likely to factor this in when selecting his starting XI.
Here is a look at how they could line up:
1. Goalkeeper & Defenders
Bernd Leno (GK) – The German stopper has gradually improved his reputation at the club since replacing Petr Cech as the team’s number one earlier in the season. Leno’s incredible double save away at Spurs epitomised how well he has developed this season. He can expect to keep his spot for the foreseeable future.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (RWB) – London-born Maitland-Niles has added to the long list of emerging young English right-backs this year. The 21-year-old has been the surprise of the season since replacing the injured Hector Bellerin and is expected to keep his place against the Magpies.
Shkodran Mustafi (CB) – Despite making a poor error during Arsenal’s friendly win over Al-Nasr over the international break, the German centre-back is expected to line up for the side once again, owing to the Gunners’ lack of options in defence.
Laurent Koscielny (CB) – The Frenchman has been at the heart of Arsenal’s defence for over nine years. Despite injury keeping him out for the majority of last season, the skipper has been impressive once again this season and will be looking to lead his side to victory on Monday night.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos (CB) – When Sokratis spent a spell on the sidelines through injury earlier this season, his absence clearly had an effect on the team as they suffered a dip in form. Now recovered, the Greek defender is expected to continue in his place alongside Koscielny on Monday.
Sead Kolasinac (LWB) – The marauding left wing back is a constant threat down Arsenal’s left side and can often link up well with Mesut Ozil. Expect to see darting runs in behind Newcastle’s defence from Kolasinac several times throughout this game.
Aaron Ramsey (CM) – With every game he plays, Ramsey seems to prove to Arsenal what an error they made in not tying him down to a contract beyond this summer. The Welshman continues to pull strings in the Gunners’ midfield and will be key to his side’s hopes of breaking down the Newcastle back line on Monday night.
Matteo Guendouzi (CM) – In his debut Premier League season, the 19-year-old continues to show maturity beyond his years in midfield. With Lucas Torreira missing out through suspension, Guendouzi is likely to come in and be the man to collect the ball from the Arsenal defence to start their attacks on the Magpies.
Mesut Ozil (CAM) – Ozil has not had the perfect season this year under Emery, finding himself dropped from the squad on several occasions. However, the German has proven himself to be pivotal in dissecting the defences of lower half teams who set up to defend against the Gunners. The 30 year-old’s incisive passing will be key to Arsenal’s play on Monday.
Alexandra Lacazette (ST) – Lacazette has formed a formidable partnership with Aubameyang this season. Despite occasionally playing just one of them, Emery is likely to start both on Monday, as Newcastle are expected to play a more defensive game.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) – The other half of this goalscoring duo is chasing the golden boot this season and finds himself just one off the lead with 17 goals. Capable of producing a much needed moment of magic, the Gabon international could prove to be the difference in this game.