Arsenal are set to face a near full-strength Newcastle United side on Monday night as they go in search of the required result to have control of the top-four race heading into the final day of the Premier League season.
It can be argued that the Magpies have nothing to play for after their securing their status in the top-flight of English football for the 2022/23 campaign, but with a top-half finish still a possibility, they’ll be keen to sign off on their final home game of the season on a positive note.
And as revealed by head coach Eddie Howe, both Callum Wilson and ex-Tottenham Hotspur defender Kieran Trippier are pushing for starts against Arsenal having made their return to action after injury in the 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City last weekend.
“I think both players would say they would be very keen to start. I think my job is to try and make sure I’m doing the best thing, not just for the individual, but for the team as well,” Howe told reporters. “We’ve got to make sure they’re fit enough and physically good enough to last a long period in the game, as obviously I cant be making too many changes too early in the match as it will unbalance the team.
“You can’t group them together and say they’re at the same stage – Callum has done more training work than Kieran, and of course he sustained a more serious injury than Kieran as well. We’ll make a decision based on the training week as to whether they start the game or not.”
With that said, there has been even more good news for Newcastle ahead of the game at St James’ Park with Ryan Fraser returning to training. Isaac Hayden and Federico Fernandez were all spotted in a session last week, but the latter looks set to miss out with an Achilles problem.
“Feddy Fernandez has had a slight Achilles problem,” Howe added. “Apart from that, I think we’re OK. Ryan’s returned to training, which is great to see. Fingers crossed, he’s fine.”
However, Howe will be without Jonjo Shelvey for the visit of Arsenal and Joe Willock will also miss out against his former club as both players have been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign with calf and knee injuries respectively.
“Jonjo, I think, has quite a serious calf injury, similar to the one he sustained at the start of this season, so, yeah, he’ll be out for a period of time,” Howe revealed. “We expect him back for the start of pre-season with no problems, and it’ll be the same for Joe Willock. He’s had an issue with a tendon in his knee for a while. We thought we’d solved the problem, but it’s come back. He needs a period of rest. He’s had a couple of injections in his knee, and we anticipate he’ll be fine for pre-season.”
Jamal Lewis is also unavailable having been left out of the 25-man Premier League squad after the January transfer window closed, thus making it four Newcastle players Howe will not be able to call upon for the big game against Arsenal on Monday night.