Newcastle United vs Arsenal
K/O: 15:00 hours
Venue: St James’ Park
Referee: Lee Probert
Arsenal travel to Newcastle United hoping for a third Premier League win in a row this weekend, whilst the hosts are still yet to claim a win after a demanding start.
The Gunners have recovered from two defeats in their opening two games to pick up successive wins against West Ham and Cardiff notching six goals in the process; with Lacazette and Aubameyang both opening their accounts for the season in the away win against Cardiff.
After a chastening defeat against Manchester City on the opening day, Arsenal were unfortunate to lose to Chelsea before dispatching West Ham and Cardiff. The recovery against Chelsea and the late winner against Cardiff showed a steel that had been missing in the late Wenger era and without doubt this gutsy outlook will be needed in Saturday’s trip to St James’ Park – a game which the Gunners lost last season.
The matchwinner against Cardiff was Alexander Lacazette and the Frenchman’s partnership with Aubameyang will be key to Arsenal’s success – the two also combined in this game last season with Aubameyang creating a goal for his partner. Something similar looks to be Arsenal’s best route to victory this season given Ramsey, Ozil and Mkhitaryan’s stuttering start to the season.
Similar to their visitors, Newcastle also come into the game on the back of two defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City, and in a quirk of the fixture calendar they have also played Cardiff where they missed a late penalty to grab a win. They have also lost to Spurs in a horrendous early season run. All three defeats to the elite were by 2-1 scorelines and all three games were pointing to signs that Benetiz has once again rinsed everything out of a limited squad, whilst Mike Ashley tightens the purse strings.
Newcastle should welcome back midfield duo Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie who would be welcome additions given their passing and creative abilities. Both midfielders are approaching full fitness but given their poor start, Benitez may decide to risk both. Javi Manquillo may find Saturday comes too soon, whilst fellow defender Florian Lejeune is a longer term absentee.
Given the need to score goals it would seem likely Joselu will come back into the team at the expense of Rondon, unless Benitez decides to go with two up front to get on the front foot in front of a rawkus home crowd. Benitez has been unfairly criticised for his defensive approach to recent games but it would be a surprise to see him open up for the visit of Arsenal, although they themselves have looked rocky at the back at times this season .
Emery’s side are still without defensive quartet Koscielny, Kolasinac, Jenkinson and Maitland Niles, none of whom will be back in the short term. Lucas Torreira is now at full fitness and will be pushing for a place in front of Xhaka or Guandouzi. The Uruguayan has been a more than useful impact substitute all season and will certainly upgrade the Arsenal midfield when he finally breaks through. Another intriguing team selection can be found at the quirk of the mercurial Mesut Ozil who has missed all four previous trips to Newcastle since his arrival at Arsenal.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Newcastle: Dubravka; Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey, Kenedy; Joselu
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka; Ozil, Ramsey, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Score Prediction: Newcastle 2 Arsenal 2
The Magpies picked up a 2-1 win in this fixture last season and are desperate for any kind of points to add to their lonely one point this campaign. Arsenal have shown signs of promise under Emery yet are clearly still learning the ropes with their new boss. Due to this and their defensive frailties, a draw looks likely this time around.