Arsenal’s Premier League campaign kicks off on Tyneside on Sunday as the Gunners take on a Newcastle United side under new management.
Steve Bruce is now in charge of the Magpies following Rafael Benitez’s summer exit, and will need to hit the ground running if club owner Mike Ashley is to avoid further fan fury.
As for Arsenal, Unai Emery’s main task this year is a top-four finish after missing out on Champions League football last year – and the £72million club-record signing of Nicolas Pepe seems to suggest that he sees goals as the answer.
The Gunners faithful will be in high spirits following a relatively “successful” transfer window. The club seemed to bring in additions in every major department.
Emery is hopeful that Alexandre Lacazette will be fit after missing the Gunners’ last two pre-season games due to an ankle injury.
Dani Ceballos could return, while record signing Nicolas Pepe may be a bench option – but his lack of pre-season minutes may mean he is only available for a cameo.
Pepe is set to replace Mkhitaryan on the right flank but taking the fact that he hasn’t played much recently, a cameo should be likely for now.
Hector Bellerin is still out following his ACL knee injury last season, but says he is only a few weeks away from first-team training.
Fellow new signing Kieran Tierney remains sidelined due to injury.
Unavailable: Bellerin (Injured), Tierney (Injured)
Doubtful: Holding (Injured), Mavropanos (Injured), Lacazette (Should be available), Pepe (Fitness), Dani Ceballos (Slight Knock)
Predicted Lineup: (4-2-3-1): Leno, Luiz, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Prediction: Newcastle 1-3 Arsenal
Fans of both of these teams have not been particularly impressed with transfer activity nor the performances of the team in recent times and the pressure is on early.
Arsenal will be confident of outscoring the hosts here, and it may prove to be something of who outscores who, based on the two defences. Even with some defensive signings, you can sense that there is a bit of a shaky feeling at the back.