Arsene Wenger will surely look to keep his side motivated after an impressive claw back against the Italian giants, and with Monday’s opponent Newcastle sitting just five points behind the Gunners, continued success is the only option.
Heading into this tie, the same old stories surrounding Arsenal were still relevant. Injuries and consistency issues tried to keep Wenger and his men down, but every time they face adversity, they somehow get the job done.
With a top four finish set to be their “trophy” this season, here is the ideal starting XI for Wenger vs. the Magpies (barring fitness).
The young Polish shot stopper is in exceptional form, and this selection is essentially a no-brainer.
Woj has leadership, confidence and attitude that goes beyond his years, and he combines these innate traits with his blessed physical and technical skills.
The 21-year-old is quickly rising up not only the Premier League ranks, but establishing himself as a world-class goalie.
Once again, he will be the one to watch from here on out.
This is another obvious choice. Wenger will probably keep his defense untouched from their heroic midweek attempts.
Both Gibbs and Sagna will provide pace up the flanks while keeping to their defensive tasks. Sagna has been playing sublime football the last few weeks and has been doing it at both ends of the park.
Vermaelen and Kos are starting to form quite the tandem in the heart of Wenger’s back four, and the Frenchman particularly has been improving with each passing match.
The lack of depth defensively causes anxiety for Arsenal fans, and the road to an automatic Champions League qualifying spot will rely on the team’s ability to keep the ball out of their net.
Staying disciplined and compact will be key during the home stretch.
The Gunners will most likely go out with the midfield formation they are accustomed to, and that consists of three workhorses willing to play box-to-box.
The emergence of the Oxlade-Chamberlain show continues to impress, and the young Englishman's development came to light against Milan. He ran rampant against a usually stout Italian defense and made Djamel Mesbah’s night especially miserable. The central role right behind the striker looks to be the perfect position for the 18-year-old.
The Ox is a shoe-in to start and I can say the same thing for Alex Song. The Cameroonian has arguably been AFC’s most consistent player behind Robin Van Persie and the 24-year-old is the heartbeat in Wenger’s midfield. He will provide cover for Arsenal’s attack but certainly has the ability to contribute immensely going forward.
Either Mikel Arteta or Tomas Rosicky will be the final midfielder to start against the Toon, and this decision is not an easy one (albeit welcomed). The Spaniard suffered a concussion in Arsenal’s win over Liverpool and although his manager says he is racing to be ready for this crucial tie, concussions are nothing to mess around with.
The Czech international has played well as of late, and Wenger’s decision to start Arteta or Rosicky will sit well with fans regardless.
Captain Vantastic will spearhead a trio up front while Theo and the Ivorian flank him. This combination looks to be a troublesome one for the Newcastle defense.
The expectations of the Dutchman have reached crazy heights, and fans find themselves shocked when he is unable to find the back of the net. With the current form he is in, I expect RVP to be a menace as always and provide his usual killer touch for Arsenal.
Walcott has been a polarizing figure during AFC’s roller coaster season, because he can’t seem to string together effective performances. He played pretty well against Milan, and Wenger knows the young Englishman is capable of brilliance.
Gervinho had himself a very successful Africa Cup of Nations and is looking to get back into the starting fold. He showed a bit of rustiness on Tuesday but that should not be cause to worry. His debut season with the Londoners has been mostly positive. The 24-year-old’s creativity and work rate is the perfect complement to Wegner’s attacking demands.
While Newcastle are creeping on the doorstep of a top four finish, their last three games have concluded with just two points. Nevertheless, their nice balance means that they are capable of an upset. They have proven that they can hang with the big boys and will look to take three points from another contender.
Arsenal on the other hand will need to put their emotional midweek clash behind them and refocus. This portion of the season is absolutely monstrous and any dropped points can prove costly.
Wenger has the unique ability to say the right things to his players to instill confidence, and get the best out of them. He knows their strengths and weaknesses and utilizes them accordingly. He never doubts or thinks twice about the personnel on the pitch and that confidence ignites his team.
Young players are starting to emerge and individuals once figured to be passed their prime are rediscovering their legs. It could not be a better time for this squad to start gelling and get back to playing the prototypical beautiful football Arsenal is used to.
I predict AFC will have their hands full with NUFC but in the end, they will be victorious. There seems to be something in the air at the Emirates that brings out the best in the Gunners, and with their fate firmly in their hands (or feet), Arsenal can put another foot forward towards Champions League qualification.
Final Score: Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United
Goal scorers: Robin Van Persie, Gervinho