Arsenal opens the New Year at the Emirates against Newcastle United. The two teams played earlier in August with the Gunners coming out 1 – 0 winners thanks to a Fabio Coloccini own goal.
Sitting at the top of the table due to their better goal difference, Arsenal start 2016 with their arrow pointing upwards. Despite the rash of injuries cutting the squad depth short, the team has responded resoundingly by claiming 13 out of 15 points against the top six in the first half of the year.
The job is not close to be doing done though as the squad still has to show the discipline and resilience of a champion. The difficult part of the season starts up again with the introduction of the FA Cup and the Champions League knockout stages. The additional fixtures will test the limits of the squad and add stress to each league much as the season goes on.
Arsene Wenger spoke out about his squad’s limitations, acknowledging the need to add players so as to create balance. He seemed to admit a deal for FC Basel’s Egyptian defensive midfielder Mohamed Elneny could be on the books, while also adding that more than one addition may be necessary.
While Wenger’s thoughts may be directed towards the future of the season, he will want to ensure that his players are only focused on Saturday’s matchup with Newcastle.
Wenger revealed that everyone who was involved against Bournemouth is available for the weekend with rotation likely on Saturday. Mathieu Flamini could be back in contention this weekend after dealing with an ankle injury, but Alexis and Mikel Arteta are just short of fitness.
Here is Arsenal most probable starting lineup against Newcastle.
Goalkeeper – Cech
Petr Cech earned his 170th clean sheet in the Premier League against Bournemouth last weekend, making him the record holder.
Wenger praised Cech after the match and credited him with being Arsenal’s missing piece.
Right Back – Bellerin
Mathieu Debuchy was due to start against Bournemouth but was a last minute scratch. His sudden omission could be an indication that a transfer is on and Wenger indicated during his press conference that Debuchy could leave the club.
Hector Bellerin will not be granted a rest on Saturday, which is not a problem considering his youth.
Center Backs – Gabriel & Koscielny
Gabriel put in his best performance in an Arsenal shirt on Monday and scored his first goal for the club. Wenger stated that the Brazilian will play more in 2016 and considering his performance against Bournemouth, it’s hard to imagine him sitting on Saturday.
Laurent Koscielny comes into the squad for Per Mertesacker who started next to the Brazilian on Monday.
Left Back – Monreal
Nacho Monreal will make a return to the first team after being granted a rest on Monday. Kieran Gibbs played well in his place, but not well enough to warrant further consideration as a starter for the time being.
Defensive Mid – Flamini
Flamini missed Monday’s match due to slight inflammation in one of his ankles. The Frenchman has a good chance of playing on Saturday, replacing Calum Chambers in the starting lineup.
Chambers played well in holding midfield, exhibiting positional discipline and ball distribution abilities.
Central Mid – Ramsey
Like he has done the past month Aaron Ramsey, along with Mesut Özil will run Arsenal’s midfield. The two have formed a good understanding, which has benefitted Arsenal immensely.
Attacking Mid – Özil
Özil was outstanding on Monday and has been on the end of justified praise from his manager, teammates, and pundits. At 27-years old, Özil is entering peak form and is a frontrunner for Player of the Year.
Wide Right – Oxlade-Chamberlain
Because Wenger plans on rotating his squad, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will get another look in the starting eleven.
Although he was not a standout player on Monday, Oxlade-Chamberlain put in an encouraging performance on Monday. He worked hard for his teammates, showed burst and trickery, and most importantly kept things simple by making the correct decisions and not trying to do too much.
Wide Left – Campbell
Joel Campbell sat out Monday’s match and will come back into the squad in the place of Theo Walcott, who will be given a rest. Campbell has played well the past two months and has moved ahead of Oxlade-Chamberlain in the pecking order.
It will be interesting to see how Wenger plans to use the Costa Rican when Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, and Danny Welbeck return from injury.
Striker – Giroud
Olivier Giroud has been in good form. He was surprisingly not given a rest on Monday and is in line to start once again on Saturday.
Wenger’s lack of options upfront prevents his ability to rotate Giroud, but considering that the French striker sat out for a good part of the beginning of the season, Giroud can afford to play a few more games in quick succession.
He’ll likely sit out Arsenal’s FA Cup tie against Sunderland next weekend if he starts this weekend.
Via – Lineup Builder