Mikel Arteta’s reign as Arsenal manager faces its latest test as Newcastle visit the Emirates this weekend, the Gunners welcoming Steve Bruce’s side to north London in the return clash of their opening fixture of the season.
Here is all you need to know about Sunday’s Premier League contest…
Draw specialists Arsenal headed into the Premier League’s winter break having recorded four successive stalemates, the club’s tally of 13 draws from their opening 25 fixtures the highest tally ever recorded at this stage of the season.
Despite wide acknowledgement that performances have generally improved since the arrival of Arteta as head coach in December, the Spaniard must now begin to secure victories if the Gunners are to reignite any faint hopes of securing European football for next season.
Currently tenth in the division and ten points adrift of the top four, the Champions League looks unlikely for the north London side but the tight nature of the table means they can quickly close the gap on a gathering of sides above them, just six points separating sixth-placed Tottenham and Southampton in 13th.
Following the visit of Newcastle the club have some winnable-looking fixtures on paper with strugglers West Ham, Brighton and Norwich to come in their next six, whilst Arsenal do not face any of the current top six until facing Leicester in late April.
Now is the time to start turning draws into victories, if Arteta is to salvage a disappointing season so far.
After a run of three consecutive defeats, Newcastle have responded with a four-game unbeaten run, leaving the club outside of the top half only on goal difference and seven points clear of the relegation places.
Steve Bruce’s less-than-popular status upon his summer appointment has improved following some assured performances from his side, the Magpies perhaps continuing to exceed expectations given the relative lack of investment in the squad in recent years.
Having navigated a difficult period following a succession of injuries to first-team stars, Bruce’s squad could be bolstered this weekend by the returns of the injured Andy Carroll, Dwight Gayle and Yoshinori Muto, whilst the influential Jonjo Shelvey is also nearing fitness following a hamstring injury.
January additions Danny Rose and Valentino Lazaro could also feature for the first time from the start, Newcastle heading to the Emirates level on points with this weekend’s opponents.
Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal, 11th August 2019
The two sides met at a rain-drenched St James’ Park on the opening weekend of the season, with former Gunners boss Unai Emery leaving the majority of his summer signings on the bench on a difficult afternoon in the North East.
Arsenal would dominate the ball for much of the contest but struggle to break down a stubborn Newcastle rearguard, and it would be reigning Golden Boot winner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who would eventually make the difference.
The Gabon international would be found in space by Ainsley Maitland-Niles before firing home his first goal of the season, securing a winning start for Arsenal against a Magpies side who would hit the woodwork through Jonjo Shelvey.
Predicted Line ups
Arsenal: Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Saka; Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ozil; Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Newcastle: Dubravka; Yedlin, Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark, Rose; Almiron, Hayden, Bentaleb, Saint-Maximin; Joelinton
Who is the referee?
How can I watch Arsenal v Newcastle?
UK readers can watch the game on Sky Sports Main Event, whilst US fans can view the fixture on NBCSN.
What time is kick off?
Arsenal – 2/5
Draw – 15/4
Newcastle – 7/1