Saturday’s game against Newcastle was supposed to be a chance for several fringe players to stake their claim for a starting position in the Premier League side.
Mikel Arteta ‘s team has been relatively fixed during Arsenal recent dramatic turnaround in form, but the Spaniard decided to use the FA Cup match to give his second string a chance to impress.
They did not take it.
If anything the fact that substitutes Alex Lacazette, Bukayo Saka and, of course, Emile Smith Rowe had such a positive impact on the game reinforced their position as guaranteed starters.
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This has made his selection decisions slightly easier ahead of what has the potential to be a tricky assignment against Crystal Palace.
The Eagles are in a rotten run of form with just one win in their last seven, but they are also unbeaten in their last four against Arsenal. On top of that there is also the added motivation for Wilfried Zaha up against the club who he supported as a boy.
Stories has resurfaced recently about how close the Ivorian came to a move across London, and he always seems extra motivate show the Gunners why they made the wrong decision.
Arteta is aware of the threat Palace pose.
Arsenal signed Nicolas Pepe (right) over Wilfried Zaha back in 2019. (Image: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images).
“They are a really dangerous side and they have shown that against big teams,” he said in his pre-match press conference.
They are a really compact and organised team and you know what you’re going to expect. They have players with a big individual talent that just need moments to win games, to create actions that can unbalance the game so we have to be very careful with that.
But at the same time the Spaniard stressed the need for his side to assert themselves against weaker opposition at home.
“Then, we have to play to be dominant…