Dropping fans’ favourites can be an effective policy, when looking for the winning formula with an under-performing team. That maxim is understood clearly by Mikel Arteta, who left the previously misfiring Lacazette out of the starting line-up against Newcastle at the Emirates Stadium.
It’s not something I would have done. Lacazette, on his day, is almost unplayable for defenders. It’s just those days have become few and far between: hence, Arteta’s decision.
Of course, it paid off in the end, with Lacazette ending his goal drought in style, after replacing the largely ineffective Neketiah (who, according to esteemed Arsenal journalist is ‘not ready’).
What is more worrying is the non-inclusion of Guendouzi. The youngster has not been at the top of his game recently, so maybe Arteta feels being dropped will be good for the Frenchman. Watching a powder puff midfield, which included Xhaka (who slotted into the left back position a lot of the time), Ceballos and Ozil was concerning in the first half, when Newcastle were able to run the ball straight through the centre of the park unopposed.
Perhaps this line-up is only for home games, where the opposition are regarded as weak. Nevertheless, Newcastle had a number of chances to score and it was a miracle that Arsenal kept a clean sheet.
Despite the margin of victory, Arsenal had better be on their mettle when they play in-form Everton next in the Premier League or they will be looking at their first defeat in 2020.
Then again, Pepe might have something to say about that. The record signing was instrumental in Arsenal’s victory, assisting twice and scoring once.
Unbelievably, Ozil even got on the scoresheet, which showed the kind of game it was after Arsenal took the lead from Aubameyang’s header.
As long as the Gunners remember that Everton will be much tougher opponents, perhaps they can go from strength to strength, especially if they welcome Guendouzi back to the fold.