Arsenal return to Premier League action on Sunday when they welcome Newcastle United to the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners squad have been in Dubai for some warm-weather training during the first ever Premier League winter break, but they must hit the ground running against the Magpies.
Heading into the game on the back of a goalless draw against Burnley a couple of weeks ago, confidence is growing as it’s now seven games unbeaten across all competitions, but they could do with stringing some victories together if the top-four remains a target.
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Head coach Mikel Arteta will have a number of decisions to make ahead of the game and his team selection will be interesting given that his side have been overseas during the break.
With that said, we asked the football.london staff for how they would line up the team against the Magpies if they were in charge.
Here’s what they said…
James Benge – Senior Club Writer
This side might exhibit only one minor change from the team that drew 0-0 at Burnley, Lucas Torreira replacing Matteo Guendouzi, and none to its stuttering attack but there are reasons to believe things will be better against Newcastle.
For one thing Arsenal looked very dangerous down the left before losing Bukayo Saka a fortnight ago, the repurposed left-back offering cut and thrust down the flank that freed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to dart infield.
There is still the issue of getting the best out of Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette but neither player will improve if they aren’t even featuring and Nicolas Pepe is not offering enough either.
James Benge’s team: Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Saka; Torreira, Xhaka; Martinelli, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Art de Roche – Arsenal correspondent
With Arsenal confirming Pablo Mari won’t be available for Newcastle, Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz should remain at the heart of the defence.
Mustafi has been steady recently and deserves a chance to keep proving himself, especially after his performance at Burnley.
As for Luiz, he has been key to the way Arteta wants Arsenal to begin attacks down the left which will surely continue.
David Luiz has been key to Mikel Arteta’s plans in possession
(Image: Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
At the top of the pitch, sacrificing Alexandre Lacazette should work fine. With him dropping out, Nicolas Pepe returns on the right – where he will finally have a good platform behind him – Gabriel Martinelli will partner Bukayo Saka down the left and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goes central.
Art de Roche’s XI: Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Saka; Torreira, Xhaka; Pepe, Ozil, Martinelli; Aubameyang
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Tashan Deniran-Alleyne – Live Writer
With Pablo Mari unavailable to make his…