Our Premier League match at Newcastle has sunk under the radar after our Europa League exploits in midweek.
Our focus has been on our European adventure, as this represents our only chance – however slim – of redeeming our season.
We squeaked through against CSKA in Moscow on Thursday after an almighty scare, and we played our strongest side in our trip to Russia. Now we have tired legs and the knowledge that if we try that same tactic again, Newcastle will get the better of us.
We sat back and were content to soak up pressure, only stretching our attacking muscles when it was absolutely mandatory. This is a familiar approach, which normally sees us concede first and then chase the game. Rafa Benitez will be aware of this, and his players will be primed from the off to go at us.
We need to play our strongest side again, and that means a reprieve for some and a deserved stay in the team for others. Mohamed Elneny had a stormer on Thursday and gives our midfield some balance, and with Granit Xhaka recovering from flu, the Egyptian should start again.
Danny Welbeck has been on fire of late, and starting out wide seems to suit the England man, with only Mo Salah outscoring him in the last five games. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan out for another two weeks or so, Welbeck is the option we need to fill the gap and increase our scoring threat.
Jack Wilshere has hit a patch of awful form, and his last two games weren’t pretty. The midfielder will most likely get another chance to shine though, with Xhaka most likely out for this game. Our defence should stay the same, although there is a chance for Calum Chambers to come into the backline for Laurent Koscielny, who often can’t fight off his chronic tendonitis when playing two games in a week.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will come back into the side after being cup-tied, and Alexandre Lacazette will most likely sit on the bench, unless Wenger goes full throttle and names both in the side, which he has inferred of late.
Newcastle have won their last three games to pull away from the relegation zone and sit comfortably in midtable. They’ve won convincingly too, and with Shelvey hitting some form, they’ve got an enigma that can turn a game if left unchecked.
Then there is our wretched away form in the Premier League – only three wins away from The Emirates all campaign – and this must change quickly. We are pretty much out of the running for the top four, but there is a distinct chance to finish above Chelsea, and also avoid our lowest ever finish under Wenger.
A sixth place finish and no Europa League would be quite clearly our worst season, so there is still much to play for. Our squad need to rotate and play at the maximum, and if we do that then we can perhaps scrape some honour from this campaign.
Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Chambers, Monreal, Elneny, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Welbeck, Aubameyang
Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal