Arsenal's troubles on the road continued against second-bottom West Ham United on Wednesday (13 December) as they made it 18 points dropped away from home this season. A welcomed return to north London awaits them this Saturday, but even on their own turf the Gunners have come unstuck recently, suffering their first loss in 13 games at the Emirates at the hands of Manchester United on 1 December.
In Newcastle United however, Arsenal are up against a side without a win in the league since October, having lost their last three on the bounce and taken just one point from a possible 24. We'd call that as reason for optimism.
Against the Hammers, Arsene Wenger opted for a change in formation, naming a flat back four for the first time this season as he reverted to a 4-2-3-1 – possibly with the intention of plugging the holes at the back that have seen the Gunners concede 32 goals away from home in 2017 – a tally only surpassed by Stoke City, Watford and West Ham themselves.
That may have worked, but at the cost of the club producing their dullest performance of the season. Barring that defeat to United – a wholly unjustified defeat depending on who you are asking – the three at the back as done Arsenal well at home and could very well return this weekend.
That change would pave the way for Sead Kolasinac's return to the starting XI on the left after a well-deserved rest last night, while it could also usher in Shkodran Mustafi's return. The Germany international limped out of the loss to United earlier this month but speaking at a press conference at the start of the week, his manager explained a return this weekend was on the cards.
Did Jack Wilshere do enough to justify another league start for Arsenal last night? Arsenal's woeful lack of creativity suggests maybe not – although he was hardly the only man responsible for that with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez both having off nights. Aaron Ramsey, so central to Arsenal this season, will surely come back in should he overcome a hamstring issue that ruled him out on Wednesday. Granit Xhaka could earn a rest with Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny to fresh options waiting to step in.
Olivier Giroud was handed his first starting appearance in the Premier League this season on Wednesday – days after an interview emerged where he firmly opened the door to a January exit with his World Cup aspirations understandably his biggest concern. Unfortunately for him, he did not do enough to earn himself another on Saturday. Alexandre Lacazette, who was introduced off the bench last night, will surely return to lead the line in place of his compatriot to try to add to his tally of eight goals in the league.
If there is one game you would be tempted to bring Theo Walcott in for, it would be against Newcastle. The England international has plundered six goals in 14 appearances against the Magpies over the years and perhaps Wenger will be tempted to bring him into replace the evermore-exasperated Alexis Sanchez.