Newcastle best XI v Arsenal: Duo axed as Benitez reinstates attacking exile
Newcastle United have perhaps their best chance of picking up three points over Arsenal for some time when the Gunners visit St James’ Park on Sunday.
The Magpies have a dismal record against Arsene Wenger and his side, having failed to taste victory over the north London outfit since 2010, when an Andy Carroll header separated the two sides at the Emirates Stadium.
Since then Arsenal have dominated, with two draws followed by 10 successive wins, the most recent clash settled by Mesut Ozil’s goal back in December 2017.
However, the Magpies’ resurgence of form, with three consecutive wins under their belt, coupled with the Gunners’ European exploits, mean the pendulum could swing back in favour of Rafael Benitez and his men.
With Arsenal having faced a gruelling trip to Moscow on Thursday, where a strong Gunners side played out a 2-2 draw, they will no doubt be some tiredness among the squad, which Newcastle must take full advantage of.
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For that reason, Benitez should axe Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle from the starting XI in favour of Jacob Murphy and Islam Slimani, the boss throwing caution to the wind.
Murphy might well have been exiled from the senior squad recently, featuring just once in the last seven games, but he has been entrusted by Benitez for matches against bigger teams, his one recent appearance coming against Liverpool.
His pace and directness could be used to take full advantage of a tired Arsenal side, while Slimani will be dying to return to the pitch after he was ineligible for the visit to parent club Leicester City, and showed the threat he can pose after playing a key role off the bench in the win against Huddersfield.
In other Newcastle United news, fans have been left raving over the club’s official statement.