Newcastle United, stuck on just one point from four matches, will welcome middling Arsenal to Tyneside on Saturday in the Premier League in a pivotal match for both.
St James Park, Newcastle, England
Key Stat: Newcastle's come-from-behind win at home in April broke a ten match losing run at the hands of the Gunners.
Expert Verdict: Back in April, Arsenal's loss at the hands of the Magpies ended up being the final loss before we got the news that Arsene Wenger would be ending his era in charge of the Gunners. So, there are scars there for sure still. Unai Emery and his men not only have to overcome that, but they also have to get by a difficult side to navigate. Newcastle aren't great, but Rafa Benitez is always capable of springing a surprise. That makes Arsenal's task difficult, but it should not stop them from winning in the end.
Rafa Benitez will be without center back Florian Lejuene due to a long-term knee injury from back in July. The sweating being done will be over the fitness of center midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and winger Matt Ritchie. Benitez has claimed each are pushing their fitness in an effort to be ready, but it might be just a little too late for them.
It's not an indicator of success in the Premier League, but Solomon Rondon's double for his country during the international break will have been a big boost to the morale of Toon fans all over. The Venezuelan brute has always been capable, if given chances. It's whether or not they get them here that's the question. DeAndre Yedlin is the second player to watch. The American has a goal and an assist so far, and is a valuable asset on the counterattack due to his speed. That can definitely come in handy against an often sloppy Arsenal.
Newcastle have four losses and a draw in their last five matches:
2-1 loss at Manchester City
3-1 loss at Nottingham Forest (EFL Cup)
1-2 home loss vs Chelsea
0-0 draw at Cardiff
1-2 home loss vs Tottenham
Defenders:Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Clark, Dummett
Midfielders:Kenedy, Diame, Ki, Perez
Unai Emery has injury woes that are holding center back Laurent Koscielny, left back Sead Kolasinac, and midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles currently. Some good news is to be had in the form of midfielder Lucas Torreira, who is looking to be available for this match after a scare on international duty against Mexico. Winger Alex Iwobi is also due to return after missing the last match through illness.
It's looking like the kind of season where Arsenal are going to need goals in order to win. Luckily for them Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are looking compatible with each other. Both men scored in the roller coaster 2-3 win at Cardiff last time out, giving people hope that they can play together consistently. Whether that can be sustained over a whole season and against the very best teams is yet to be seen, but the last match was a huge confidence boost for them.
Arsenal have three wins and two losses in their last five matches:
2-3 home win vs Cardiff
3-1 home win vs West Ham
3-2 loss at Chelsea
0-2 home loss vs Manchester City
2-0 home win vs Lazio (Friendly)
Defenders:Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal
Defensive Midfielders:Guendouzi, Xhaka
Attacking Midfielders:Ozil, Ramsey, Aubameyang
Newcastle and Arsenal have had a long history between them. It's been tight over the course of 159 meetings, but Arsenal have the edge with 66 wins, 59 losses, and 34 draws overall. Here's a look at the last five results:
Apr 15, 2018: Newcastle 2-1 Arsenal
Dec 16, 2017: Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle
Jan 2, 2016: Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle
Aug 29, 2015: Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal
Mar 21, 2015: Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Newcastle are at 16/5 to win, a draw is at 5/2, and an Arsenal win is at 17/20.
The Toon Army and boss Rafa Benitez would have been hoping to not be in a relegation battle this season yet again, but it is looking like- at least here early- that that could well be on the cards again. A lack of investment yet again and the failure to sell the club mean they are stuck in the place they were last season. It's going to be down to the brilliance of the Spanish manager to once again pull them out of the bottom step-by-step. So far, his side are in 18th early on and have only one draw in their opening four matches. The positive is that they have lost to Spurs, Chelsea, and City, so it's not exactly time to get to the panic stations as of yet. Brighter days could still lie ahead.
As for Arsenal, they have a chance to right the wrongs of last season by exorcising a couple of demons of their own. After making a tough start to the year by losing to London rivals Chelsea and to Manchester City, they have bounced back with two consecutive wins and sit in ninth place on six points. The biggest issue has been how open they are. While Emery will be happy to see them playing with confidence on the ball, it has left them open to attacks from the opposition. Cardiff, who had failed to score in its first three games, scored twice against the Gunners. A home match with Vorskia, which they should rotate heavily for, lies in wait on Thursday in the Europa League.
Arsenal have yet to keep a clean sheet in the PL so far, and it would be no real surprise to see them fail to keep one yet again, even if they do pull out a victory.
Both teams scoring is at 8/13 via Ladbrokes.
Aubameyang and Lacazette to both score anytime is at 3.96 odds via Betfair.
Arsenal still don't look like they are going to be capable of fighting with the top four or five teams right now, but they also are attempting to play in a confident, positive manner. That pays of on Tyneside with a win to give them three in a row in the league.