Having picked up just one point from their last eight Premier League games, Newcastle United face the daunting task of a trip to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium this weekend, a ground where the Gunners have taken 18 points from a possible 21 this season, with a recent defeat to Manchester United, the only mark on an otherwise perfect home record.
After 17 games, Arsenal find themselves in 7th place, already an incredible 19 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City, but perhaps more significantly, just one point away from their London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in 4th.
Arsene Wenger’s side, whilst being formidable at the Emirates, have won only twice on the road this campaign, a 5-2 thumping of Everton, and a late 1-0 victory at Burnley’s Turf Moor.
On the back of two consecutive away draws in 4 days, against Southampton and West Ham United, Saturday’s encounter with Rafael Benitez’s men may well have come at the perfect time.
As referenced, Newcastle are on somewhat of a disastrous run of form. After a relatively positive start to the season, that saw the newly promoted side take nine points from their first five league games, you have to go back as far as October 21st for the last time the Magpies took all three points from a Premier League game, a 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace at St James’ Park.
Whilst there are only four points separating West Ham in 19th, and Southampton in 11th, Newcastle have found themselves very much amongst the lower half pack, and sit currently in in 16th position, just one point outside of the relegation zone, but with reassurance that a string of positive results could quite easily propel them into mid-table, in a similar vain to Everton, who took three points away from St James’ Park on Wednesday night, courtesy of a solitary strike from Wayne Rooney.
However, if recent encounters between Arsenal and Newcastle are anything to pinpoint, then Saturday’s outcome should make for relatively easy guess work.
The Gunners have won the last nine Premier League meetings between the sides, with Newcastle’s last victory within the fixture, coming in November 2010, where an Andy Carroll header was enough to see them to an impressive 1-0 away win.
Whilst another goal-scoring centre forward may well be top of Rafael Benitez’s list come January, the Spaniard will be without one of their current main souraces of creativity, Jonjo Shelvey for the trip to North London, after the midfielder was sent off late on against Everton midweek.
Arsenal will almost certainly be without defender Shkodran Mustafi, and midfielder Aaron Ramsey, with the latter’s absence, paving way for Jack Wilshere to potentially keep his place in the side, after making his first Arsenal start for over two years in Wednesday’s 0-0 draw at West Ham.
With any hopes of a title race realistically extinguished for any of the big hitters, following Manchester City’s unprecedented form this season, the race for Champions League qualification will now become Arsenal’s priority domestically.
After failing to win in their last four Premier League games, anything but all three points on Saturday will add to the unrest amongst supporters.
Newcastle almost have nothing to lose going into the game. Very few people are expecting them to take anything away from The Emirates, which may play to their advantage, should they approach the game in a pragmatic sense, as they did at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, where they scored the first goal of both games, only to eventually fall under opposition pressure.
Score Prediction – Arsenal 2 vs Newcastle United 1