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PREVIEW: Newcastle v Arsenal: Injury News, Ozil Rested?, Preferred XI + Prediction
The busy festive period continues as we take on Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon.
Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace today has seen us drop to second in the Premier League but we can regain top spot with a win tomorrow.
I thought we looked very good against West Ham on Boxing Day and fully deserved our three points, but with Olivier Giroud’s poor form in front of goal continuing, we still look like we’re missing a lethal threat up front.
The return to fitness of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski will certainly help as they both have a knack for scoring and creating goals, as was proven at Upton Park, but the sooner Giroud finds his shooting boots again, the better.
Newcastle are going to be an extremely difficult side to beat and they have been in superb form, with Alan Pardew’s men winning their last four games. In fact, if they beat us tomorrow they will be just three points behind us, so a win is vital to build momentum.
Injury and Team News
Aaron Ramsey is out after being forced off against the Hammers with a thigh injury. Thankfully Jack Wilshere is back after serving his two-game ban and I think he’ll come straight back in to the starting eleven.
I think Wenger might opt for the Flamini-Arteta axis to keep things tight in front of the defence, which may see Jack deployed on the wing. Lukas Podolski is pushing for a start after impressing off the bench on Thursday but I think we’ll see him among the subs again.
Laurent Koscielny is expected to be recalled after recovering from a cut knee. It will be a little harsh on Thomas Vermaelen as he’s not really put a foot wrong since returning to the side, but the Kos-Mertesacker partnership has served us well over the past year so I doubt the boss will change it now.
The big decision Arsene has to make is when to give Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud a rest. With Cardiff at home up next, I think Giroud should start this one before being given a breather on Wednesday.
Ozil is a little easier to rest as we’ve got plenty of options in the attacking midfield position. Tomas Rosicky is available and Santi Cazorla can also move into the middle, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the German on the bench tomorrow.
The above side is more than capable of coming back to north London with all three points and while Newcastle are going to push us close, I’m backing the boys to edge this one. Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal