Newcastle United will host Arsenal at St. James' Park on Sunday in what is sure to be an intriguing fixture.
Arsenal’s comeback win against West Ham United on Thursday means that they return to the top of the table where they have been for most of this season.
Newcastle beat Stoke City 5-1 at home on the same day, in a match that saw their opponents receive two red cards. The Magpies are currently sixth in the table, just six points behind the Gunners. They have now won seven of their last nine league games.
Newcastle lost to Arsenal twice last season, which included an embarrassing 7-3 defeat at Emirates on December 29th. The Magpies are hoping to put that memory behind them. They could move into the top four for the first time this season with a win.
Rising To The Occasion
In addition to the two defeats last year, Newcastle has not beaten Arsenal in six league matches. The last win came in November 2010, a 1-0 match at Emirates. Andy Carrol was the goalscorer.
But if history is not on their side, recent results will surely give Newcastle some confidence. The club has played very well against the Premier League’s elite this year.
Newcastle was hammered 4-0 by Manchester City in the opening match of the season. But since then, the results have been far more positive.
The club played Liverpool to a 2-2 draw on October 19th. They have since defeated Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspurs and of course, Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Ramsey Out. Koscielny and Wilshere Expected To Return
Arsène Wenger is dealing with several injuries to key players. Midfielder Aaron Ramsey is the latest to go down. He suffered a thigh injury versus West Ham and is expected to miss the match.
Abou Diaby and Oxlade Chamberlain are out long-term due to knee injuries. French defender Laurent Koscielny has missed the last few games but is expected to return against Newcastle. And English international Jack Wilshere will return after serving a two-game suspension.
Newcastle go into the game relatively healthy. Jonas Gutierrez, however is still battling a calf injury and was not among the substitutes against Stoke. Midfielder Cheick Tioté served a one-game yellow card suspension in the same game and will return against Arsenal.
Arsène Wenger has gone with the 4-2-3-1 formation for most of this season. In part, to accommodate playmaker Mesut Özil who has been their driving force this season.
The German international has played behind the misfiring striker Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman was a peripheral figure in Arsenal’s comeback win against West Ham United earlier this week. Giroud has not scored in seven matches for the club in all competitions.
Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey leads the club with eight goals but will miss the match with an injury as previously mentioned. Giroud is second with seven goals. English winger Theo Walcott has been in good form since returning from an abdominal strain in October. He scored twice last time out against West Ham.
Alan Pardew will be encouraged by the return of Cheick Tioté, who along with Moussa Sissoko, have formed an excellent Newcastle midfield this season. Tioté is expected to return to his regular spot. Newcastle will likely play in a 4-4-2 formation with Shola Ameobi and Loïc Rémy up front.
The Magpies have been in excellent form overall and should be extra confident playing at home. They have lost only one league match at St. James’ Park this season, a 3-2 defeat to Hull City in September. Since then, Newcastle have won four and drawn two matches at home.
Arsenal come into the match at the end of a difficult stretch of games that included a 6-3 defeat to Manchester City. The Gunners have scored 36 goals already this season, third most after Liverpool and City, but they have been known to leak goals at times.
Newcastle will once again put in a great effort against a formidable opponent. Arsenal will recover from another slow start. Very little between both sides. The match will end as a draw.
Newcastle United 2 – 2 Arsenal