Arsenal kick off a busy stretch of five matches in two weeks on Saturday morning with a trip to St. James’ Park to face Newcastle. The Magpies sit tied for second-last in the table, having only managed a point from their first four but don’t let that number fool you - they’ve faced Spurs, Chelsea, and City so far this season. The Gunners are coming off back-to-back wins and will be keen to keep the momentum going.
When these two sides met in April, Newcastle prevailed 2-1, snapping a 10-game losing and a 12-game winless streak against Arsenal. That streak started with the infamous 4-4 draw in which the Magpies scored four goals in 19 minutes. Here’s a recap of that debacle, just in case you want to relive one of Arsenal’s worst performances of the past 10 years.
Arsenal did not suffer any significant injuries over the international break. Lucas Torreira picked up a slight knock but trained this week and should be available. Alex Iwobi will return to the 18 after missing out against Cardiff through illness. Two of the Gunners’ long-term absentees, Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, received good news over the break - both are expected to return to training a few weeks earlier than initially expected.
Both Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie returned to training this week for Newcastle and will be available for selection on Saturday. Salomon Rondon and DeAndre Yedlin returned late from the international break and might not be ready to face the Gunners.
Arsenal are in the midst of an 8-game league stretch in which they are favored to win each match. As our statistical wizard Scott Willis wrote, getting as close to the full 24 points from those matches is crucial to the Gunners’ chances of finishing in the Top 4 this season. Saturday’s match with Newcastle is the second most difficult of those fixtures according to his odds.
While I don’t believe in the concept of “must-win” matches outside of the obvious cases (i.e. facing elimination), Saturday’s fixture is the type of match that Top 4 teams find a way to win. It doesn’t have to be clean, it doesn’t have to be pretty, you just need to end up with more goals than the other guys. We know that Arsenal can win with style; what has sometimes been lacking is the ability to win ugly. Of course I’d love for the Gunners to run rampant and win by 3 or 4, but oddly enough, grinding out a 1-0 result would give me more confidence going forward.
WHAT: Arsenal at Newcastle
WHERE: St. James’ Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
WHEN: Saturday, September 15th, 7 AM PT | 10 AM ET | 3 PM BT
US TV: Not televised. NBC Gold (subscription) only.
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