Happy matchday fellow Arsenal obsessive. Hope all is good with you? It’s blowing a right ol’ gail in London; certainly feels like the gods are angry and extracting their revenge.

Perhaps that’s why they’ve called this particular storm Dennis.

Anyway, apparently it’s not impacting the likelihood of the match being called off today apparently and that’s good to hear. With the players back from Dubai, some more returnees to the squad, it feels like we’ve got a renewed sense of vigour and hope right now.

Of course come 7pm tonight we could all be back to square one with a draw or defeat. Of course the last time you have to go back to see Newcastle bear Arsenal was about nine and a half years ago. In November 2010 Andy Carroll rose above Fabianski and we couldn’t muster a goal at home to beat the Magpies. I really hope the return of Andy Carroll doesn’t bring back the misfortune. We’ve had enough of it throughout this season, coupled with our own innate ability to shoot ourselves in the foot, so I really hope the reunion of player and club doesn’t kick us in the balls.

I looked at the head-to-head. We’ve got a good record, with nine wins and one defeat in our last ten and most importantly, no draws!

So that’s blatantly going to happen today isn’t it? In this season of draw after draw it feels like it’s almost nailed on to happen. We desperately need a win to start building some kind of momentum, we’ve got players back and rested, the feel good factor is a little bit back with Arteta, so of course it almost feels inevitable that the football gods are going to stick two fingers up to us today. So expect a poor VAR decision, or dodgy refereeing all afternoon, or a brain fart moment that gifts Newcastle something. It almost feels inevitable!

Arteta has some selection decisions to make though. He has some questions that he needs to answer, like:

  • Who are my first choice central defensive pairing?
  • Who plays left back?
  • Do Özil and Lacazette deserve another chance to deliver end product?
  • Do I bring Reiss Nelson back in?
  • So many questions! But at least he has these options, rather than having his hand forced. It’s a good position to be in and I’m sure he’s relishing it.
  • I suspect we’ll have Leno in goal, Bellerin at right back, Kolasinac at left back (although it’s a little harsh on Saka as I think he’s done well), Luiz and then Mustafi at centre half. Sokratis is not great on the ball and Mustafi is better, having shown better performances in his last couple of games. He has his brain fart moments but I suspect we’ll have most of the ball today so if that’s the case we need players who are better with it at their feet; that’s not Sokratis.
  • I don’t think Pablo Mari starts because Arteta has already said he’s in the equivalent of his pre season at the moment having been in Brazil where their league season is only just kicking off.
  • In front of them surely has to be Torreira and Xhaka. It’s the best pairing that provides passing range and defensive cover and so I hope that’s what’s in Arteta’s head. He may go with Guendouzi instead of Torreira if he thinks Newcastle will let us have the ball, but personally I prefer the security of the Uruguayan, so that’s what I’ve got my fingers crossed for.
  • Then, to the dilemma that is the front four, and it really is a dilemma. I mean, obviously Aubameyang plays, but who else is a shoe-in? Lacazette is painfully out of form, Özil isn’t producing end results that his status should assure, Pepe has blown hot and cold, then we have a collective of youngsters who have been as good as they have been bad this season. Which is not a slight on them by the way: that’s what happens with young players as they adapt to the top-level mens game.
  • Of course if you’re going with form you’d say Martinelli and Saka should flank Aubameyang up top, then perhaps Willock begins, but that leaves a lot of inexperience and so far Arteta has shown reluctance to go ‘all in’ on the kids. He’s still willing to give Özil and Lacazette a chance and perhaps this is a game in which he tells both of them “lads, you need to do something for me today, because I’m running out of reasons to keep you in the team”, or probably something similar but a bit more diplomatic.

    My gut tells me he’ll go experience, play Auba wide left, Lacazette through the middle, Özil behind him and Pepe our wide. Perhaps Martinelli sneaks in ahead of the Ivorian but it’s touch and go I suspect. Martinelli wasn’t great wide right against Burnley and has been at his best playing wide left, which is why I wonder if that will play on Arteta’s mind, and perhaps result in Pepe from the start.

    As for Newcastle, they’ve got a bit of patchy form but have some decent results in there, with a draw away to Wolves and a win at home to Chelski. They’ve also drawn against Everton and Norwich and been beaten away to Leicester City, so it’s been a decent return for Steve Bruce. He’s done a lot better with this team than many thought and they currently sit on 31 points like we do. So it’s not going to be an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. Despite me being worried about the curse of Andy Carroll, he’s injured today, so it’ll be Joelinton our back line will have to cope with. Newcastle line up with a back three normally and in Danny Rose playing left back we have a pantomime villain for the day. Hopefully he isn’t extra juiced up for it. I could really do without him having the game of his life.

    He’ll play as a wing back with Lazaro probably on the other side. I’m not sure who will play through the middle but I suspect they’ll have Almiron pulling the strings behind Joelinton, as well as Saint-Maximin, who looks a real handful and has pace to burn. I can see him getting himself isolated behind Bellerin if Hector pushes forward, so a centre half with recovery pace will be vital this afternoon for the counter attack.

    It’s an intriguing one but certainly one Arsenal should be looking for a win out of. No more draws please. We’ve had enough of those. Time to lay down a marker.

    Catch you all tomorrow.