Arsenal will face a difficult task in righting last weekend’s defeat to Stoke City when they host Newcastle United at the Emirates on Saturday (17:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
The Gunners come into the match on the back of a 4-1 victory away to Galatasaray in the Champions League on Tuesday. But their Premier League form has not been as impressive. They are in sixth place, with 23 points from six wins, five draws and four defeats.
Arsene Wenger’s side suffered their third loss in five league fixtures by falling to a 3-2 defeat away to Stoke last weekend. They were blown away in the opening 45 minutes, conceding three times to go in at the break with a mountain to climb. Goals from Santiago Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey offered hope, but Arsenal were unable to complete the turnaround.
The Gunners’ defence came under heavy criticism in the aftermath of the defeat, with Per Mertesacker singled out for particular reproach. He was the old head in a back-line in which three of the five component players were aged 22 or younger. But it is Wenger who must take the brunt of the blame for his failure to sign adequate defensive cover in pre-season.
Arsenal are currently right where they should be, with both the joint sixth-best scoring record and the joint sixth-best defensive record in the division. Yet Wenger has at times struggled to find the correct balance for his side. They have won on all five occasions on which they’ve kept a clean sheet, but have lost four, drawn five and won just once when they’ve conceded.
Wenger will definitely be without the injured Abou Diaby (calf), Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Mesut Ozil (knee) for this match, while Calum Chambers is suspended. David Ospina (thigh), Mikel Arteta (calf), Nacho Monreal (knock) and Theo Walcott (groin) are all highly doubtful. Ramsey (hamstring), Mathieu Flamini (calf) and Tomas Rosicky (thigh) should be okay.
Newcastle travel south on the back of ending Chelsea’s unbeaten record with a 2-1 victory at St James’ Park last weekend. They are seventh in the Premier League table, level with Arsenal on 23 points from six wins, five draws and four defeats.
Alan Pardew’s (pictured) side rode their luck a little at times against the league leaders but it was difficult to begrudge them victory after a committed defensive showing and some swift and incisive counter-attacks. Two second-half strikes from substitute Papiss Demba Cisse gave them a cushion that survived Steven Taylor’s red card and a late Chelsea goal.
The victory came after a draw and a defeat in Newcastle’s previous two Premier League matches but added to what has generally been a very positive couple of months for the club, representing, as it did, their sixth win in their last eight matches. This strong run of form has eased a little of the pressure Pardew had been under after a very poor start to the campaign.
His team is now based around a solid defensive structure, who have conceded just four times in their last eight matches, and rapid counter-attacks when possession is won. The quick and inventive Ayoze Perez has begun to settle, while Cisse seems to have rediscovered some of the scoring form he showed in his early months in England.
Pardew not be able to call on the injured Gabriel Obertan (thigh), Robert Elliot (thigh), Ryan Taylor (knee), Siem de Jong (thigh) and Tim Krul (ankle), while Steven Taylor and Moussa Sissoko are both suspended. Abeid Mehdi (toe), Davide Santon (knee), Fabricio Coloccini (knock) and Rolando Aarons (hamstring) are all doubtful.
Arsenal v Newcastle United Betting Tips
Arsenal were 3-0 victors in last season’s equivalent fixture and also triumphed, 1-0, in the reverse at St James’ Park. Olivier Giroud scored in both matches. Indeed, the Gunners have won each of the last five meetings between these sides and have also lost just two of the last 20. On home soil, they have won eight, drawn one and lost one of the last 10 meetings.
Arsenal are in a solid position in the Premier League and have secured their passage to the last 16 of the Champions League, but all has not been well so far this season. Their lack of defensive options has at times left them exposed and despite the best efforts of new signing Alexis Sanchez, their attack has rarely been able to overcome this weakness.
Newcastle were very poor in the early part of the season, but Pardew now appears to have stumbled upon a winning formula. Like Arsenal, he has plenty of injury and suspension problems coming into this match, but he will still be able to call on the majority of his most important players. A repeat of the Chelsea performance will likely yield a positive result.
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- Arsenal have struggled to make early breakthroughs at the Emirates so far this season. In seven attempts, they have only twice opened the scoring within the first 45 minutes of play. Newcastle will surely seek to keep things tight in the opening exchanges. Therefore, back over 31 minutes on the time of first goal market @ 23/20 with William Hill.
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