Arsenal take on Newcastle United at the Emirates this afternoon. Here’s the line-up I’d like Mikel Arteta to select…
Holding to start
Rob Holding certainly took his time to recover from his knee injury but he’s been fully fit for some time now and I’m not sure why he’s being overlooked by Arteta. It’s easy to forget he was our best centre-back before his injury and I think he deserves a chance to stake his claim for the first team shirt again. Sokratis played reasonably well against Burnley but I’d bring Holding in this afternoon.
January signing Pablo Mari is close to being in contention after building up his fitness during the winter break but he hasn’t played since December and this game comes too soon for him. Therefore, David Luiz should keep his place in the Arsenal back four.
Hector Bellerin is fully fit to he’ll start at right-back. Cedric Soares is still recovering from a knee injury so he won’t be available to make his debut any time soon. Kieran Tierney is expected to return to training later this month but Sead Kolasinac is available after recovering from a thigh injury. However, I’d stick with Bukayo Saka at left-back this afternoon as he hasn’t put a foot wrong since filling-in during Kolasinac’s absence.
In midfield, I’d go with Lucas Torreira alongside Granit Xhaka. Matteo Guendouzi’s form has been inconsistent lately and I think it’s clear Arsenal’s best central midfield partnership right now is Torreira and Xhaka.
Dani Ceballos is back in contention and I do think he can be a very useful player for us during the second half of the season but I’d still leave him on the bench against Newcastle today. Mesut Ozil has been very disappointing recently. We aren’t creating enough and it’s down to Ozil as our chief playmaker to make things happen so this is a huge game for him. Another poor performance and I’d seriously consider dropping him.
I think Arteta’s main decision is how to line-up in attack. Alexandre Lacazette has struggled for goals this season and he looks short of confidence. I’m not a fan of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang playing out on the wing and with Laca out of form, it makes no sense to leave our best goal-scorer out of position.
Also, Gabriel Martinelli has been superb when played from the left and he wasn’t as effective from the right against Burnley. Therefore, I think Arsenal would be far more balanced if we play Martinelli on the left and Auba through the middle with Laca used as an impact sub.
That would then make room for Nicolas Pepe to start on the right. He’s shown flashes of his obvious ability this season but I think he just needs a run of games before we start to see him perform consistently.
Reiss Nelson is still available again after recovering from a hamstring injury but he can be an option from the bench if Arsenal need some attacking impetus in the second half.
Here is how I hope Arsenal line-up: