With Thanksgiving behind us, the last few days here in America have been spent focused on the positives in our lives and showing appreciation - for friends, family, health, and everything in between. Sure, we spend the better part of the day gorging and sleeping, but in between massive meals, we find moments to reflect and be appreciative.
Whether you are in the States or elsewhere, Arsenal fans have plenty to be thankful for. The club is in the hunt for a Champions League spot, has a growing roster of young, promising talent, and seems to be heading in the right direction under Mikel Arteta. Personally, I am thankful that the yearly slaughter at Liverpool is mercifully out of the way. Like death and taxes, it has become unavoidable at this point.
Arsenal can now focus on getting back to business. The task at hand for Arteta this weekend is a simple one - rediscover the rhythm that saw the Gunners go 10 matches unbeaten before last weekend’s loss. The Liverpool match was a harsh lesson for the Gunners, one that can linger in the minds of the players and snowball into more losses if they aren’t careful.
Thankfully, Arsenal have the perfect rebound opportunity as bottom-of-the-table Newcastle comes to the Emirates for an early match. Newcastle’s season has been a strange one. Winless since the start of the season and almost certainly relegation-bound, the mood around the club shifted drastically when it was announced in October that the club was being bought out by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which was quickly followed by fans frothing at the mouth at the potential of having a Manchester City-esque injection of cash and talent.
Shortly after the take over, manager Steve Bruce was sacked and replaced by former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe. However, a positive COVID diagnosis shortly after his hiring meant that Howe missed Newcastle’s first match under his management, relegated to watching from a hotel room as the Magpies drew Brentford 3-3 at St. James’ Park. His presence at the Emirates has yet to be decided, so it is too early to tell how his presence has impacted Newcastle’s performance.
No matter the circumstance, Arteta and the players need to approach this match with a win in mind. A new manager and new ownership does not change the fact that Newcastle have not won a match this season. They have managed to score two more goals than the Gunners’ 13 on the season, but they have also leaked goal at a far higher rate, a fact that Arsenal need to exploit in front of their home fans.
Historically, there are few teams that Arsenal have greater success against than Newcastle. According to unofficial Arsenal stat-keeper Orbinho on Twitter, the Gunners have never lost to the Magpies at the Emirates, and have not lost to them at home in nearly 19 years. Newcastle have not scored at the Emirates in their last six visits. The stats paint a very one sided story that the Gunners would benefit from continuing.
And yet, none of that matters if the Gunners can’t find a way to score. While Arsenal have been markedly better in defense this season, they have been exceedingly poor in front of goal. 13 goals through 12 matches is exceedingly un-Arsenal. The Gunners have scored more than one goal in only four matches this season and have been shut out in four. Sure, having a solid defense and a keeper like Aaron Ramsdale keeps them from having to get into a shoot out every match, but success is unsustainable when your attackers can’t score.
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Emile Smith Rowe have carried the attack this season, with four goals apiece. Meanwhile, no other player behind them has more than one goal. This is bad. Fundamentally troublesome, truthfully, and something that looks to be less like an execution issue and more of a byproduct of Mikel Arteta’s tactics. Arteta succeeded in turning the defense around, but now he needs to focus on the attack. Newcastle is an ideal starting point, especially with Aubameyang’s propensity for scoring against the Magpies.
Arsenal are unchanged in the injury department. That’s undeniably good. Granit Xhaka and Sead Kolasinac remain the only long-term injuries, with Xhaka back on track to return to training soon. Kieran Tierney is healthy and is expected to reclaim the left back spot after Nuno Tavares’ green performance against Liverpool. Sambi Lokonga is healthy, but he earned his fourth yellow of the season against Liverpool. With a match against Manchester United coming up on Thursday, will Arteta risk a suspension for the young Belgian or will he give Ainsley Maitland Niles the start? Arteta seems to favor a consistent lineup no matter the competition, but will that change against a reeling Newcastle?
For more lineup and prediction discussion, check out Nathan’s recent post.
Newcastle come into the match in great health, with only one long term injury to defender Paul Dummett. Four of their regulars are on four yellows, though, which may affect how Howe chooses to approach his lineup. More interestingly for Arsenal fans, this match will also be the homecoming of former Arsenal academy product Joe Willock, who left the club over the summer after a successful loan spell at Newcastle.
Strong teams have short memories. Arsenal will want to keep their forward momentum after last weekend, then three points on Saturday is a good place to start.
WHAT: Arsenal vs Newcastle
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: 7:30am est/4:30am pst/12:30pm bst
HOW TO WATCH: Watch live on NBC Sports. Streaming on NBCsports.com
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