Unai Emery’s starting XIs were among the toughest to predict last season, with the Arsenal boss fond of regularly making tactical changes between games and indeed during them.
Emery has experimented with a 3-4-3 and 4-4-2 this summer but a 4-2-3-1 was the most-used system in pre-season and could be the one the Spaniard turns to on Tyneside this Sunday.
David Luiz may make his debut at centre-half alongside Sokratis, potentially meaning that Calum Chambers – who has more pre-season minutes to his name than any Arsenal player – drops out.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles appears to have a clear run at right-back for now but the arrival of Kieran Tierney will provide stiff competition at left-back in the long-term.
The former Celtic defender will be out of action for between four to six weeks with a groin issue so Nacho Monreal will likely continue on Sunday, with Sead Kolasinac (along with Mesut Ozil) reportedly not involved because of an ongoing police investigation.
Granit Xhaka looks a probable starter in central midfield but there is plenty of competition alongside him, with Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos perhaps leading the charge – Mohamed Elneny hasn’t featured at all for the Gunners after the Africa Cup of Nations and Lucas Torreira has only four pre-season minutes to his name.
Ceballos himself has only featured for two 20-minute cameos, so Guendouzi could get the nod – although Joe Willock is yet another name to throw into the mix and the youngster could potentially play in ‘the hole’ with Ozil absent.
Alexandre Lacazette (ankle) faces a late fitness test so his availability may determine whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang plays out wide or up top, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be confident of a start given that Alex Iwobi has departed and Nicolas Pepe is still to prove his match-fitness – the summer signing featured for the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations and may be introduced gradually off the bench, having not played a single pre-season minute.
Dinos Mavropanos (groin), Hector Bellerin (knee) and Rob Holding (knee) remain out.