Arsenal return to Premier League action five days after an atrocious outing at West Ham in the Carabao Cup which saw the Gunners bounced out of the (largely unnecessary) competition. Egos thoroughly bruised, Mikel Arteta’s side now sets their sights on a trip to St. James Park to take on the new money kids on the block Newcastle.
While Arsenal’s emergence in the title fight was one of last season’s major storylines, so was the rise of Newcastle. The Magpies’ top four run caught everyone by surprise, finding success behind a stout defense and efficient attack. While many anticipated that they would eventually ascend to the upper echelon of the league after being purchased by the Saudi Public Investment Fund the previous season, nobody expected them to do so as quickly as they did.
So far this season, they seem to be repeating patterns from last season - the occasional goal explosion, followed by a mix of wins and draws. They are unbeaten in the last six matches after losing three straight, finding their footing at the quarter season mark as they set their sights once again on the top four.
Five talking points ahead of Saturday’s match:
- Eyes on the prize - Wednesday was a gut check for the Gunners. The loss against West Ham saw nearly everything go wrong that could have gone wrong. But Arsenal didn’t do themselves any favors, either, with their lackluster performance, looking largely disinterested and out of sorts. The 3-1 defeat was a harsh reminder that they can’t afford to overlook an opponent or take a match off. Newcastle, dealing with a slew of injuries, are coming off a sound 3-0 thumping of spiraling Manchester United in the Carabao Cup, giving them a head of steam with Arsenal coming to town on the weekend. A hangover from a lackluster cup performance could be a death knell for Arsenal if they aren’t careful.
- The one with Knocks - Arsenal exited October picking up some crucial wins, but also some crucial injuries. Gabriel Jesus did his hamstring against Sevilla and will be out until December. Thomas Partey remains perpetually unavailable. Compounding the midfield injury woes, Arteta dropped the frustrating news after the EFL loss that Emile Smith Rowe picked up a potentially serious knee injury against Sheffield United last weekend. While Arteta has not been known for his forthrightness when it comes to player injuries, the ESR news is simultaneously frustrating and predictable. Arsenal now have four first team players out with injuries, leaving the midfield in particular thin.
- Engine, Engine, number 9 - Eddie Nketiah scored a hat trick last weekend against a pitiful Sheffield United before dropping a stinker against West Ham where he fluffed a few solid chances. The absence of Gabriel Jesus puts the striker position in a bit of a bind, as Eddie is the only pure striker on roster available, for better or for worse. We have seen Leandro Trossard line up as a false nine, and Kai Havertz is also capable of filling that role. The decision is going to be tremendously important going up against a club that is just outside of the top four looking in.
- I need a Hiro - The feel-good story of the season so far has to be the return to form of Takehiro Tomiyasu. The do-it-all defender has come out of the blocks in blistering form, earning Arsenal’s October Player of the Month. The biggest loser, though, may very well be one of last season’s most influential players: Alexander Zinchenko. The Ukrainian left back has struggled to recreate the string-pulling performances of last season, while Tomi has been locking down the left flank and slowly growing into the inverted role. If Zinchenko isn’t careful, he could find himself benched full time by Tomi.
- Bully Ball - One of the areas that Arsenal struggled with against West Ham was physicality. That’s not terribly surprising when the starting midfield and attack lacked a physical presence outside of Kai Havertz. Arteta made the decision to rest William Saliba, Tomiyasu, and Declan Rice, and the Gunners paid for it by getting outmuscled by West Ham and losing the majority of the aerial duels. The Gunners will be greatly benefitted by the return of those players to the starting lineup against a Newcastle side that doesn’t shy away from challenges. If those players are up for it and put in the shift they are capable of, it should neutralize the edge that Newcastle brings into the match.
This match is early enough in the season to not torpedo either side’s title aspirations with a loss, but both will need a win to keep up with the rest of the pack. Arsenal’s league form has been solid, but the midweek loss and recent injuries have taken a little shine off an otherwise strong opening three months.
Last season’s success was built on the backs of elite performances away from the Emirates. What better time for the Gunners to repeat that success and get back to picking up points on the road than Saturday?
WHAT: Arsenal at Newcastle United
WHEN: Saturday, November 4th, 1:30pm EST/9:30am PST/6:30pm GMT
WHERE: St. James Park, Newcastle
HOW TO WATCH: Broadcast live on NBC. Streaming on Peacock.
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