According to Arsenal reporter Charles Watts, Nicolas Pepe, Dani Ceballos, David Luiz and Alexandre Lacazette are in attendance.
Not sure they will all start. It might just be the strongest bench they’ve ever had for a Premier League game.
Gervinho was sent off on his Arsenal debut in August 2011 for raising a hand to Joey Barton (of course). Abou Diaby also got involved with Barton when he saw red in that infamous 4-4 draw at St James’ the previous season. Think this was around the time Barton started to quote Descartes on Twitter.
Other than that, it was a fairly uneventful 0-0 draw if memory serves as Arsenal struggled to fill the creativity void left by the departing Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
More pungent is a memory of vomiting in a hedge later that night after drinking more Asahi than was wise at my second-cousin’s 30th. Was there a correlation between underage binge drinking and watching Gervinho play football? I do not comment on speculation.
Newcastle and Arsenal started their summers with anger and introspection regarding owners Mike Ashley and Stan Kroenke, but finished pre-season in contrasting moods.
Buoyed by a transfer window in which they ticked off all their obvious positional requirements, there is a buzz around Arsenal again. The same cannot be said of Newcastle after the underwhelming appointment of Steve Bruce, even though £65 million has been invested in attacking talents like Allan Saint-Maximin and Joelinton.
We might not see Unai Emery’s new Arsenal take shape for a few months. Practically an entire outfield team – Hector Bellerin, David Luiz, Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, Dani Ceballos, Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette – are either injured, injury doubts, still building fitness or late arrivals. Sead Kolasinac and Mesut Ozil are also unavailable due to ongoing security concerns.
This then might be an Arsenal XI we look back on in May and say: ‘Did they really put THAT team out on the first day of the season?!”. Accumulating points while under-strength should be a priority for Arsenal in the season’s early weeks.
That uncertainty should present an opportunity for Newcastle, who will fancy troubling a defence that shipped 51 goal and won just seven of 19 games away from home last season.
They kept hold off Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff who are likely to form a combative midfield pair, while defensive stalwarts Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar also remain at the club.
We will found out this season just how much value Rafael Benitez’s coaching had, although Bruce does have a track record for keeping teams in the Premier League.
One of Arsenal’s away wins in the league last year was at St James’ Park, when a Granit Xhaka free-kick and Ozil goal was enough for a 2-1 win.