Bukayo Saka in Place of Kieran Tierney
Expected to come up against another low-block at the Emirates, the shape of the opponent may call for more offensive bodies in the side. Arsenal will try to have Newcastle pinned back for large spells, in which case the threatening presence of Saka on the overlap will offer the Gunners more chance to stretch the Magpies‘ backline and open spaces for Emile Smith Rowe to drift into.
Maitland-Niles didn’t do enough of this against Palace as he’s less comfortable on his unfavoured left foot, which contributed to an unbalanced shape in possession. Too often he and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came inside, allowing their opponents to restructure and regroup.
Steve Bruce’s side have to be dragged out of position at every opportunity, whether vertically or horizontally, in order to get the best out of Smith Rowe. Palace had little trouble marking him out of the game in their unmoved compact setup, precisely what Newcastle will look to do.
Granit Xhaka’s impressive defensive display on the night will help Arteta feel more assured when Saka bombards forward, as too will the return of Gabriel Magalhaes who is considerably more mobile than Pablo Mari.
No supporter wants to see Saka at left-back, but it’s undeniable how vital having a natural left footer on that side is to ensuring Arsenal don’t resort to a single flank bias.
It’s important that Arsenal go for the jugular on Monday and get their noses in front as early as they can, by which time the game can be managed and a more defensively assured option, such as Maitland-Niles, can come in to offer more solidity at the back than Saka would.
Above all the preference is to see Tierney return to the fold. Yet in regards to fitness management, if there are doubts then Arteta should err on the side of caution. In a dream world, Saka would get a rest too, but Arsenal don’t boast such luxuries.