Arsenal starting XI still unsolved after Newcastle win


Arsenal beat Newcastle 1-0 today at St. James’ Park in what was a rather bland- yet controversial- display of Premier League football. The Gunners began on the front foot but were not granted an arguably clear penalty call early on.

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Minutes Later, Newcastle summer signing Aleksandar Mitrovic was sent off after being given a questionable straight red card for a stamp on Francis Coquelin’s lower leg.

Five yellow cards then followed for the 10 frustrated Magpies left on the pitch, as Arsenal controlled possession until the end. However, it still took Arsenal 52 minutes to grab the lead after an undeserved Newcastle own goal, as the Gunners were toothless in attack and lacking spark in the final third for the whole match.

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Meanwhile a classic, lackluster Arsenal side that was devoid of any genuine conviction today needs change. The Gunners haven’t impressed once in their EPL season thus far, and the starting squad is still highly questionable.

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Arsene Wenger hasn’t yet found the formula that will help his club be the title contenders everyone knows the Gunners should be by now, but after four at-best average EPL performances, Wenger must find a potent starting XI as soon as possible.

That begs the question at hand to be asked: What is Wenger’s next move? With the Arsenal boss ‘working in’ the transfer market but still ‘not close’ (Arsene Wenger) to signing anyone, it seems as if the Gunners will have to find the best starting XI within the current side to challenge for the title and not just for the top four (quote per James Olley of the London Evening Standard via Bleacher Report). So, after four EPL matches of experimenting, what XI should Wenger elect to play with next?

First, Arsenal’s starting defensive lineup is solved as of now. With Petr Cech sitting behind Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, and Monreal, the Gunners should have all they need. Moving up the pitch, Arsenal’s problems are exposed. Though Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, and Mesut Ozil form the staunch, yet dangerous triangle in the center of the park, out wide is where Arsenal’s issues are exacerbated.

Wenger cannot find a consistent right mid, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains the most viable option. Though relatively inexperienced as an Arsenal starter, the young Englishman offers incredible pace, skill on the ball, and shooting – as seen against Chelsea in the Community Shield – from the right side of the pitch.

Plus, he offers the direct play that Arsenal stray from too often and is still willing to stay wide to attack from the flank, unlike candidate Aaron Ramsey. On the other side of the pitch sits the potent Alexis, who has undoubtedly earned his starting rank.

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At striker, dilemma ensues. As stated above, Arsenal is reportedly in the transfer market (supposedly) for a new striker, but again nothing seems to be working at the moment for Wenger: “We work very hard. I am available 24 hours per day and I have a team around me who work day and night to find good solutions.” (Arsene Wenger, per

Thus, Arsenal must live with Olivier Giroud up top. Walcott struggled, to say the least, against Newcastle, missing a sitter in the process. Plus, the Englishman doesn’t seem to be the goalscorer that Giroud is. After all, Olivier managed as many shots as Theo did (3) in just 23 minutes, compared to Theo’s 70 minutes on the pitch.

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Right now, Walcott has really only earned a role as a substitute (Giroud and Walcott stats per Pending on health, the questionable, raw Danny Welbeck could offer a possible option at striker after returning from injury sometime this season as well.

In conclusion, Arsene Wenger must find his squad’s best starting XI as soon as possible. The defense and center midfield remain for the most part unquestioned, but the Ox deserves a starting place on the right side of the attack. Giroud seems the optimal option for the Gunners up top, and Alexis will keep his place on the left.

However, Wenger can only do so much. After all, it is too often that Arsenal’s players lack the energy and urgency to consistently earn three points. Though with the proposed starting lineup in play and players like Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, and Danny Welbeck on the bench, the Gunners could be set to make a genuine title challenge come May 2016.

Next: Arsenal are arrogant

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