Arsenal set for another 7 changes v Newcastle as chase Champions League dream?
Arsenal travel to Tyneside at the weekend, taking on Newcastle United at 1.30pm on Sunday.
That match kicks off only around 60 hours or so after the final whistle will blow on Thursday night in Moscow.
The Europa League has become the be all and end all for Arsenal and their fans this season, just as it was last season for Manchester United.
The move to give the Europa League winners a Champions League golden ticket, obviously working wonders in terms of commitment to the competition for certain clubs.
With six games remaining and 13 points off fourth place, the Premier League has lost all interest for Arsenal supporters.
Supporters of other clubs just don’t understand how terrible it is to be suffering in sixth…
Instead of the usual five thousand empty seats in the Emirates on Sunday at home to Southampton, it looked closer to half the sixty thousand who had prepaid, had decided to give it a miss.
To underline the shift in Arsenal priorities, rather than playing a reserve team in the cups to give their Premier League form every chance, instead Arsene Wenger put out a second string in the Premier League against the Saints.
The two starting elevens are below, Wenger playing his first team against CSKA Moscow in their Europa League first leg, then leaving seven of them out on Sunday.
The reality was that he kept Cech and two defenders in the team but the only other one was defensive midfielder Xhaka.
The bottom line is the front five midfield/strikers were all missing – Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Lacazette all missing.
Thursday 5 April
Arsenal 4 CSKA Moscow 1
Cech, Bellerín, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Xhaka, Wilshere, Özil, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan
Sunday 8 April
Arsenal 3 Southampton 2
Cech, Bellerín, Mustafi, Chambers, Kolasinac, El Neny, Xhaka, Nelson, Iwobi, Welbeck, Aubameyang
Thursday 12 April 8.05pm
CSKA Moscow v Arsenal
Sunday 15 April
Newcastle v Arsenal 1.30pm
Arsenal are of course 4-1 up after the first leg but CSKA Moscow have an excellent record of far better results at home in Europe than away.
If Arsenal were competitive in the Premier League in any way then yes, you would maybe Arsene Wenger to gamble with having a three goal lead BUT why should he when the Premier League is all but meaningless for the Gunners?
Imagine if he keeps players for Newcastle and then Arsenal throw it away against CSKA Moscow? The Arsenal fans and slavish media go nuts enough when they only draw a couple of games, never mind if they throw away their only chance of Champions League football next season.
The Arsenal boss will surely play a very similar team in Moscow as he did a week earlier.
There is then no way he would risk his creative players and best attacking players at St James Park, so soon after playing in, and returning from, Russia.
Ridiculously, Newcastle United have never beaten Arsenal at home in 13 years.
It was back in 2005 when Nobby Solano scored the only goal of the game in the 82nd minute in front of 52,297 people at St James Park.
Newcastle go into the game on a run of four wins and a draw from the last six Premier League matches, having won all three of their last few home matches, including beating Man Utd.
The players Wenger does play at Newcastle will be no mugs but there certainly won’t be anything to fear.
Southampton took the lead and then came back to 2-2 on Sunday against the weakened Arsenal team, Newcastle need to get at them from the start and stick another feather in Rafa Benitez’ cap.
This is a golden chance to end that Arsenal hoodoo and I am very confident it will happen.
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