After events over the past four days, Arsenal know nothing but a win will do against Newcastle United after watching Tottenham Hotspur move into fourth thanks to a 1-0 win over Burnley.
Despite last Thursday’s 3-0 reverse against Spurs, it’s still in the Gunners’ hands to finish fourth and guarantee Champions League football for the first time in over five years. However, there is little margin for error heading into the penultimate fixture of the season on Monday night.
In terms of good omens, unlike their recent track record away from home in the North London Derby, Arsenal tend to dominate against Newcastle having won the last seven Premier League meetings between the two clubs – as well as the FA Cup third-round tie last season.
With the Spurs defeat – especially the manner of it – fresh in the mind, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is expecting a response from his players at St James’ Park: “The excitement that they’ve shown me every day,” he told reporters. “The way they’ve come in today with the energy that they were with today to play the game and very willing to go there and perform at the highest level.”
Victory will take the Gunners back into fourth and for that to happen, it’s vital that Arteta gets his team selection right. Now, this could be easier said than done given the central defensive crisis on his plate with Rob Holding suspended as well as injury doubts over Benjamin White and Gabriel Magalhaes.
The fact that neither were spotted in Sunday’s training session would have been enough to give fans cause for concern, but of the pair White seems more likely to start as it would be a big risk to include the Brazilian given he limped off against Spurs clutching his hamstring.
If Gabriel does indeed miss out, his place could go to Takehiro Tomiyasu. The Japanese defender has experience of playing in defence – albeit in a back three – for his national team, but this would be a new role for him at Arsenal and also allows for Nuno Tavares to earn a recall at left-back.
The midfield trio of Martin Odegaard, Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny will be easy choices as are Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah in attack. But Arteta has a big choice to make to complete his front three and considering his side must score, Emile Smith Rowe could get the nod over Gabriel Martinelli.
That’s no slight on the Brazilian – he would be a great option off the bench – as he was brilliant against Leeds and carried a threat early on against Spurs, but he’s not scored in 10 games. Whereas Smith Rowe showed in the win over Chelsea that he can make a vital contribution when the stakes are high.
Arsenal predicted XI vs Newcastle United: Ramsdale; Cedric, White, Tomiyasu, Tavares; Odegaard, Elneny, Xhaka; Saka, Nketiah, Smith Rowe