Arsenal ought to secure their second victory of the season when they travel to St James’ Park to take on Newcastle on Saturday (12:45 BST, live on BT Sport).
Newcastle finished just four points above the relegation zone last season but are hopeful of improving on that showing this time around. They have, however, picked up just two points from a tough start to the campaign, which continues with Arsenal’s visit this weekend.
Steve McLaren’s side played out a dull 0-0 draw away to Manchester United on Saturday. They offered precious little in attack but defended stoutly throughout and survived a late header off the post to leave Old Trafford with a deserved point. That result was followed by a morale-boosting 4-1 win at home to Northampton Town in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday.
The latter match allowed the St James’ Park faithful their first glimpse of new signing Florian Thauvin (pictured), who marked his debut with a goal and three assists. It was a highly promising start, but it will be his displays against top-flight, rather than League Two, opposition that will determine whether his £12million fee represents good business for the club.
Thauvin joined Aleksander Mitrovic, Chancel Mbemba and Georginio Wijnaldum as Newcastle’s fourth major acquisition of the summer. The club’s previously parsimonious owners have provided McLaren with the necessary funds to begin building his own team and will expect to see steady improvement in results and performances over the coming months.
McLaren will definitely be without the injured Emmanuel Riviere (knee) and Sylvain Marveaux (hernia), while Moussa Sissoko (groin) is also likely to miss out.
Arsenal finished third in the Premier League last season and came into the new campaign with aspirations of competing for the title. They have, however, dropped points in two of their opening three matches of the season, with long-standing problems again rearing their head.
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Arsene Wenger’s side played out a chaotic 0-0 draw at home to Liverpool on Monday night in what was very much a game of two halves. Liverpool were twice denied by excellent saves from Petr Cech during the first half, while in the second it was Arsenal who created the better opportunities, with Olivier Giroud missing a superb late chance to secure victory.
Wenger was far from impressed with his side’s first-half performance. He was without both of his regular centre-backs but their absence nevertheless provided insufficient explanation for the sloppiness that pervaded the Gunners’ play throughout the opening 45 minutes. It was certainly not a display that strengthened belief in their ability to challenge for the title.
They functioned much better as a team after the break, with the fluidity of their attacking play matched by improved defensive solidity. However, as in their opening-day defeat to West Ham, they were unable to take advantage of their chances. They still look a dominant midfielder and top-line striker away from a side who are capable of winning the league.
Wenger will definitely be without the injured Danny Welbeck (knee), Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Tomas Rosicky (knee). Laurent Koscielny (back) and Per Mertesacker (illness) are both expected to return after missing the draw with Liverpool.
Our Newcastle v Arsenal Preview’s Betting Tips
Arsenal were 2-1 winners in last season’s equivalent fixture and have won each of the last seven meetings between the sides at all venues. They are also undefeated in their last nine visits to St James’ Park, with Newcastle’s last home win over Arsenal coming back in 2005. The Magpies have won just two, to Arsenal’s 13, of the last 20 encounters at all venues.
Newcastle are in the midst of a tough set of early fixtures and while they would ideally like to take all three points on Saturday, a draw would be an acceptable result. They were bright in their opening-day draw with Southampton, thoroughly outplayed in defeat away to Swansea and relatively solid yet blunt in attack in their draw away to Manchester United last time out.
Arsenal have created enough good-quality chances to have outscored their opponents in all three of their matches to date but have only done so on one occasion. The season is yet young but they nevertheless need to sharpen up at both ends of the pitch if they are to avoid making as slow a start to this campaign as they did to the last one.
While the Gunners do have their problems, they can be fancied to record victory on Saturday against a Newcastle side who are still finding their feet under their new head coach.
- Back Arsenal to win on the “match result and over 2.5 goals” market @ best odds of 12/5 with Bet365, Betfair, Coral, Boylesports.
- Giroud is not the most reliable of finishers, but he does have an excellent record against Newcastle. The Frenchman has scored in each of his last four matches against these opponents, including double-strikes in both of last season’s encounters. Back Olivier Giroud to score at anytime @ best odds of 6/5 with Bet365, Paddy Power or BetVictor.