A second early Saturday kick-off in a row, this time Newcastle face a so far sub-par Arsenal at St James’ Park.
Both sides earned hard-fought goalless draws in their last league outings; each of their keepers making an impressive eight saves. Although at the other end the parallels end, as Arsenal peppered the Liverpool goal with 19 shots and had a goal disallowed, meanwhile Newcastle barely managed seven and it was their opponents who were the ones with the written off goal.
History doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the home side, we’ve on a seven match losing streak against Arsenal, and haven’t defeated them at St James’ in a decade. The last time we earned a point against the Gunners was a certain 4-4 draw back in 2011, three players who played that day remain at the club; captain Fabricio Coloccini, Mike Williamson, and Cheick Tioté, and another two were unused subs; Tim Krul and Shane Ferguson (currently on loan to Millwall).
Perhaps that day is still fresh in Wenger’s mind, although going 4-0 up by half-time wasn’t quite enough on that occasion:
“We want to do well at Newcastle but it’s always very, very, very tight and very committed there because the crowd is always behind their team. They have just come out from a good result at Manchester United so it’s important that we prepare well and we give absolutely everything to win this game before the break.”
– Arsene Wenger
Steve McClaren will be doing his best to prevent Arsenal’s attempts to bombard the Newcastle goal, aiming to emulate the defensive performance from the Manchester United draw, but hopefully with more luck at the other end.
“We defended very well at Old Trafford. To beat any team, especially the top few teams, you have to defend well, defend as a team and be compact. We will need to repeat that against Arsenal but be better on the ball, especially as it’s a home game. At home you need to keep the ball. With a sell-out crowd behind us, hopefully we’ll make it difficult for Arsenal.”
– Steve McClaren
Paul Dummett is reportedly back in contention, giving Massadio Haïdara, who has been pinpointed by fans as the weak link in our back four recently, some competition. Daryl Janmaat served his one-match suspension last week against Manchester United.
Moussa Sissoko is a doubt, but should definitely be back after the international break. It’s unknown whether Papiss Cissé, who missed Tuesday’s cup clash with Northampton due to illness, will be involved.
Siem de Jong played his first complete competitive match for the club on Tuesday, more than a year after signing for Newcastle, captaining the side and scoring a goal in the 4-1 win.
As for Arsenal, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker are doubts, while Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck are definitely out of contention.
“The squad is coming together really well, even though we still don’t know our best team. We are still searching for that, but that will come. But I’m delighted with the squad.”
– Steve McClaren
I expect McClaren to mostly stick with the side that kept a clean sheet at Old Trafford last week, bringing in Thauvin for Obertan, or perhaps Ayoze, on the back of that incredible performance in the cup.
Janmaat cost us the match against Swansea with his needless double yellow, and by no means deserves to walk back into the back five that played so well last week.
We’re on a long losing streak against Arsenal, but we have a new manager and a new ethos, so I’m going to be positive and say that we’ll build our last two performances, combining an organised defence with a lethal attack to take a shock 2-0. Goal scorers? Mitrović and de Jong.
Where to Watch / Listen
Tickets are still available, so the matchday box office will be open up until kick-off; prices start at £36 for adults and £18 for kids, although there are also family enclosure tickets for £26 and £12 each respectively.
The match is televised live on BT Sport 1, with the main coverage starting at noon, but Matchday Live with Fletch and Sav is on for the prior two hours. Local radio commentary, as always, is on BBC Newcastle.
How do you think we’ll get on in this game? Have your say in our discussion thread.
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