After an incredibly deflating opening half-hour, Arsenal’s season salvaging hopes seemed to vanish when Dani Ceballos received his second yellow card. It capped off what has been a trio of frustrating results for the Gunners and left some questioning Mikel Arteta’s future. While I think the owners and Edu are fully behind Mikel Arteta, now and for next season, there is clearly a lot of work to do this summer. Work that they got started in the January window, but there is expected to be a vast amount of player activity coming in and out of the Emirates over the next few months.
10th. No one at the club or who supports Arsenal wants to be anywhere that low in the Premier League. A few positive results here at the end of the season may boost their final spot a bit, but it won’t change the fact that the Gunners have struggled in the league this season and in front of empty crowds. It’s been an incredibly strange year. One that I’m sure Mikel Arteta is ready to close the book on and continuing rebuilding the squad heading into a new season, with the hope of fans back in the Emirates and a push back towards the Arsenal of the recent years.
Up next is Newcastle who enters the weekend in 16th place, nine points safe from the relegation zone. They’ve only lost once in their last eight matches, but Arsenal will get to avoid their latest good luck charm, late-goal specialist Joe Willock. His form, and goals, have further fueled the rumors that if Newcastle stay up they would like to make a transfer for him in the summer.
Arsenal need the cash to fund their own transfer window ambitions, but could Willock fit into the side that is definitely losing Ceballos and may not be able to tempt Odegaard away from Real Madrid full time? Problems for the summer. For now, Arsenal simply need to find an attacking rhythm ahead of the Europa League semi-final second leg.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
- Emile Smith Rowe
- Bukayo Saka
- Granit Xhaka
- Thomas Partey
- Rob Holding
- Calum Chambers
- Bernd Leno
- Left Out: Pablo Mari, Reiss Nelson, & Alex Runarsson
- Out: Alexandre Lacazette (Hamstring) & Kieran Tierney (Knee)
- The only thing I really want to see on Sunday (besides goals) is a lot of new names in the starting XI. While Thursday might not have gone the way we wanted, it still featured many of our best players available and we will need them again for the second leg. Save Saka and Smith Rowe. Save Xhaka and Partey.
- When Mat Ryan joined Arsenal, having fallen in the Brighton depth chart, he probably thought he would have been given more opportunities to start by this point. With his loan set to expire this summer, his two starts are likely an indicator that Arteta doesn’t feel like he is a long-term solution or even backup. However, Sunday is set up for a perfect chance for Ryan to move back into the starting XI. Arteta is still fully behind Leno, who I expect to start against Villarreal next week, leaving Newcastle as a great chance to give Ryan minutes. Two clean sheets from 15 starts this season isn’t inspiring, but I don’t think anyone will have an issue with him being the #1 on Sunday.
- It was nice to see David Luiz back on the sidelines warming up on Thursday. Pablo Mari and Rob Holding had formed a strong partnership, even though there was a lot of blame to go around for the two goals conceded to Villarreal to the first half. The Newcastle match offers a perfect chance to rotate that center duo, as well as the fullbacks. Bellerin’s days continue to seem numbered at Arsenal, but I was surprised to see Cedric left out in the first leg. Even though left-back isn’t his primary position, I want to see how his speed matches up against Villarreal with Granit back in the midfield. A run out for Cedric and Luiz to see if perhaps they should start Thursday.
- With Dani Ceballos suspended for the second leg, Arteta might as well use him for the Premier League Sunday. In fact, rest Xhaka and Partey since the league is no longer a factor. Let Elneny pair with Ceballos and look ahead to letting Granit back into the midfield next week.
- Missing a true center forward on Thursday left the attack with a primary focal point. With Lacazette still out and Aubameyang’s fitness still a work in process, Nketiah returns to the starting XI. Eddie might have lost his momentum in this second half of the season, but he functional operates in the system as Arteta wants. In fact, I’d rotate most of the attacking front four. Martinelli failed to make an impact on Thursday but we know he has the ability to disrupt opposition backlines and his movement paired with Odegaard will likely provide Arsenal’s most dangerous attack on Sunday. And who doesn’t love some Willian, right? It would be a great time to get a first goal...
- In the second half, if we are still needing a goal I’d bring in Smith Rowe and Pepe for the last half hour for Odegaard and Martinelli, to keep all four in contention for the second leg. And then give Aubameyang another 15-25 minutes to keep getting him back up to speed. The way Arteta talked after the first leg, our captain has a ways to go to be 90 minutes fit again, so it’s best to head into the week thinking he is a second-half impact sub.
How to watch
Sunday (4/30) at 9:00 am ET / 6:00 am PT on NBCSN.
Arsenal - 2
Newcastle - 1
Who is in your starting XI for the weekend and what is your scoreline prediction?