The FourFourTwo Preview: Newcastle vs Arsenal
Lifeless Magpies versus the gloriously failing Gunners.
- Everton 3-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-1 Man Utd (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-0 Villa (Prem)
- Man City 5-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Palace 1-1 Newcastle (Prem)
- Monaco 0-2 Arsenal (CL)
- Arsenal 3-0 West Ham (Prem)
- Man Utd 1-2 Arsenal (FAC)
- QPR 1-2 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 Everton (Prem)
The Magpies' temporary head coach John Carver was given the thankless task of guiding the team through to the summer following the departure of Alan Pardew in December.
The north-east native hasn’t quite distinguished himself as a Geordie messiah. Under his stewardship the team have only claimed two wins (against Hull and Aston Villa) in 11. This run has included six defeats and three draws.
Following their most recent capitulation – a 3-0 at Everton – the players’ attitude was questioned, but Carver insists his troops are focused on winning points, not drinking games in Ibiza.
“You know what our group of players are like. They don’t need to be motivated for Arsenal.” Erm, well actually John...
That said, the Magpies have beaten the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City this season. Given the standard of team below them, Newcastle appear safe in 11th position with a 10-point gap between themselves and Burnley in 18th. But the relegation quicksand is still underfoot with 27 points to play for.
With Arsenal in top form it’s hard to see Newcastle adding to their points tally on Saturday. After five Premier League wins on the bounce the Gunners are third in the table, a point behind second-placed City, and seven behind Chelsea, who have a game in hand.
Jose Mourinho has been up to his usual tricks, deflecting focus and pressure onto Arsenal by claiming they’re still in the title race. While this seems highly unlikely, it would be so typical of Wenger's men to claw back the deficit and lose the title on goal difference.
As French sports daily L’Equipe put it, the north Londoners are the “eternal losers”. Saturday’s visit to St James’ Park is a great opportunity for the Gunners to show their mental strength after crashing out of the Champions League last 16 to Monaco. In true Arsenal fashion, Wenger’s men won 2-0 at the Stade Louis II on Tuesday, but exited the competition on away goals after losing the first leg 3-1. Oh, Arsenal, that’s so you.
Brushing aside teams in the bottom half of the table is another habit they specialise in. As is beating Newcastle (six wins from their last six). Do we need to spell it out for you?
The Newcastle physio has his work cut out. Long-term absentees Steven Tayor, Cheick Tioté and Paul Dummett continue to hog beds, while Mehdi Abeid, Papiss Cissé, Rolando Aarons and Massadio Haïdara add to his workload. Siem de Jong is at least due back in training soon after suffering a collapsed lung.
Tomas Rosicky could be ready to return to Arsenal’s squad, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy are still a few weeks away from full fitness.
Player to watch: Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
After another injury-plagued season, Ramsey appears to be finding his fitness and form at just the right time for Arsenal. The midfielder suffered a third hamstring strain of the season against Leicester at the start of February, but he’s fought back and struck twice in his last two games. Ramsey’s energy and desire to get forward paid dividends against West Ham last Saturday and Monaco on Tuesday.
His passing wasn’t perfect against the Hammers, but he completed 64 – more than any other player on the pitch. This included an assist for the opening goal on the cusp of half-time. He added his own name to the scoresheet in the second half following some clever link-up play with Olivier Giroud. The former Cardiff player was at it again in the French principality, scoring Arsenal’s second as they chased a decisive third. Newcastle’s defence are going to have to keep one eye on Giroud and the other on a bearded Welshman.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- 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)
- Arsenal 7-3 N'castle (PL, Dec 12)
It’s the fifth straight year Arsenal have exited the Champions League at the last 16 stage, but they’re on course to qualify for next season’s competition. With this in mind, Wenger is staying positive and believes another win – their eighth in nine games – just adds to their momentum as they enter squeaky bum time. “The overall situation is very disappointing [losing to Monaco], but if you look at the game it is very positive. This game is in line with what we have done recently and we want to take this performance into the rest of the season,” said the Frenchman. “I am realistic enough to know that every season is different and we will judge it at the end.”
Carver insists Newcastle’s inconsistent form has been discussed with the staff and players and they’re determined to put things right – starting with Arsenal on Saturday. “We have spoken about it [poor form] and how it shouldn’t be the way,” said the Magpies boss. “It shouldn’t matter if you play the top or the bottom of the league, you should prepare yourselves in the right manner for any game.”
Facts and figures
- Olivier Giroud has netted 6 goals in 5 Premier League appearances against the Magpies.
- Alexis Sanchez has scored the first goal of the game more often than any other Premier League player this season.
- St James' Park has seen the joint-most goals netted in the final 15 minutes of matches (13 along with the Emirates).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
The Gunners to continue their good run of form with a 2-0 win.