Premier League | St James' Park | Sat 29 Aug | 12:45pm
The Premier League’s two (joint) lowest scorers go head-to-head.
- Newcastle 3-1 Northampton (LC)
- Man Utd 0-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Swansea 2-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 2-2 So’ton (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-1 Gladbach (F)
- Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool (Prem)
- Palace 1-2 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 0-2 West Ham (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea (C Shield)
- Arsenal 1-0 Wolfsburg (F)
Arsenal’s 0-0 draw against Liverpool on Monday night means they have now failed to win at least two of their opening three encounters in the Premier League for the fourth time in five seasons.
It is certainly too early to panic in the red half of North London, but an immediate improvement is needed if the Gunners are to convince everyone that they are genuine title contenders this term.
Although failing to beat a side like Liverpool is not a disaster, the manner of Arsene Wenger’s team’s performance would have been a concern to Arsenal fans.
Brendan Rodgers’ charges completely dominated the first half at the Emirates and should have been ahead at the interval, with the woodwork and two brilliant saves from Petr Cech the only thing keeping Arsenal level. While the hosts did improve after the break, they still lacked incision up front and failed to force Simon Mignolet into making the sort of intervention that Cech was compelled to do in the opening 45 minutes.
Although Arsenal were excellent in the final few months of last season, it was their form in the early stages that effectively put them out of the title race by mid-October: just two victories in their first eight games left them with a mountain to climb before the clocks went back in autumn. Wenger knows that they cannot afford another slow start this time around.
Newcastle’s start to the campaign under new manager Steve McClaren has been similarly mixed: a decent display in a 2-2 draw with Southampton on the opening day was followed by a poor showing in a 2-0 defeat at Swansea, but the Magpies’ 0-0 draw with Manchester United last weekend will have given their supporters hope that the team has turned a corner.
Indeed, the buzz around St James’ Park is starting to return after the living nightmare that was Newcastle United in the second half of 2014/15. New signings Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba have already added value to the side, with the likes of Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini and Papiss Cisse having upped their game after some underwhelming performances last year.
Newcastle have no fresh injury worries following their goalless draw with United last weekend. Paul Dummett will again miss out with a hamstring strain, as will Emmanuel Riviere with a knee issue, but Moussa Sissoko has a slight chance of being fit after missing the trip to Old Trafford. Right-back Daryl Janmaat is eligible again following a one-match suspension for his sending-off in the loss to Swansea.
Arsenal will expect to have Per Mertesacker back in the heart of the defence after the Germany international missed Monday’s clash with Liverpool through illness, with his centre-back partner Laurent Koscielny also hoping to return to the Gunners’ XI after a slight back problem. Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky are still absent, although the former duo should be back to full fitness after the international break.
Key battle: Wijnaldum vs Coquelin
Wijnaldum has been impressive in his first few games in a Newcastle shirt, providing a fine blend of energy and technique in the engine room. The Dutchman’s drive and ability to knit the play together has been invaluable so far, with his late runs into the box adding another potential source of goals to McClaren’s side. The task of stopping such movements and lessening Wijnaldum’s influence on the game will fall to Francis Coquelin, who had a decent match against Liverpool. Still prone to flashes of rashness and with a tendency to dive in, the Frenchman must keep a cool head in what is likely to be a hot atmosphere at St James’.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- N’castle 1-2 Arsenal (PL, Mar 15)
- Arsenal 4-1 N’castle (PL, Dec 14)
- Arsenal 3-0 N'castle (PL, Apr 14)
- N'castle 0-1 Arsenal (PL, Dec 13)
- N'castle 0-1 Arsenal (PL, May 13)
McClaren and Wenger have not faced off since January 2006, when the former England manager’s Middlesbrough outfit were thrashed 7-0 by a rampant Arsenal team that featured a Thierry Henry hat-trick and further goals from Robert Pires, Alex Hleb, Gilberto Silva and, er, Philippe Senderos. McClaren has been awfully busy in the near-decade since that fateful winter day at the Emirates, winning the Eredivisie title with FC Twente, becoming the first Englishman to coach in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg, assisting Harry Redknapp as part of the QPR coaching staff and narrowly failing to lead Derby to the top flight via the play-offs in 2014.
The Yorkshireman will be desperate to get a first win under his belt as Newcastle boss against Wenger, who is now in his 20th season at Arsenal. Wenger conceded his side’s start to this campaign has been “very average” in his post-match press conference on Monday, with the Frenchman aware that anything less than a win against the Magpies would already leave Arsenal playing catch-up after just four league games.
Facts and figures
- Newcastle have won 0 of their last 8 Premier League home games against the Gunners (D4 L4).
- Olivier Giroud has scored 8 goals in 6 Premier League appearances against Newcastle; more than against any other team.
- Arsenal have scored the joint fewest goals (2) despite having the joint most shots (40, excluding blocked), meaning that they have a league-low shot conversion rate of 5%.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
A spirited Newcastle performance to be undone by Arsenal’s extra dash of quality. 1-2.