Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday 2nd January 2016, 1500 GMT
Arsenal FC head into 2016 at the top of the Premier League table and looking to discover the consistency eluding all Premier League clubs. They host relegation candidates Newcastle United at the Emirates on Saturday, with the Magpies’ recent run of good form stalled by successive defeats to Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion. Arsene Wenger’s men would love to compound the misery in Steve McClaren’s camp, with the Toon manager coming under severe scrutiny in recent weeks.
Team News and Tactics
With two games in the space of four days, Arsene Wenger would want to continue his team’s rotation in order not to tire out too many of his players. In the last fixture against Bournemouth, Callum Chambers, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gabriel Paulista and Kieran Gibbs were introduced to allow some rest and recovery for Arsene Wenger’s injury-hit Arsenal FC squad.
Gabriel grabbed his chance with both hands as the defender managed to score a goal from a corner and hit the upright with another headed effort. With Francis Coquelin still out of the squad, Chambers and Gabriel look likely to start again to face a beleaguered Newcastle. Laurent Koscielny could come back into the squad as Per Mertersacker continues to look like the weak link in Arsenal’s back line. Wenger would look to narrow down his choices for his central defensive partnership with a trip to Anfield on the horizon.
Mesut Ozil scored against Bournemouth and assisted Gabriel’s opener, taking his total league assists to 16 for the season. With Thierry Henry’s record of 20 assists approaching, the midfielder is in the best form of his Arsenal FC career. His involvement would be crucial in securing a win for the Gunners. Oliver Girourd looks ready to pick up where he left off against Newcastle, with the Frenchman having scored eight goals in seven games against the Magpies.
Petr Cech went into the record books in the Gunners’ previous game, with the clean sheet against Bournemouth taking his total to a league record 170 clean sheets. Cech will definitely be included at the Emirates again, while Koscielny and Gibbs should retain their places.
Olivier Giroud should start up front with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on either side of him. Chambers should hold on to his place, though Mattheu Flamini could be involved as he shrugs off an ankle injury. Chamberlain and Walcott should be started, though it is possible that Joel Campbell could be introduced for either of them if the scoreline is positive for Arsenal FC.
Probable Starting XI (4-5-1) Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Gibbs; Chambers, Ramsey, Ozil, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain ; Giroud.
NEWCASTLE UNITED F.C.
Newcastle United are not a happy place to be at currently. The manager is embattled, the players are inconsistent and the fans are mutinous. McClaren’s history as the failed manager of England prejudiced the Georides against his appointment and they have seen little so far to suggest they were wrong.
While spectacular victories against Liverpool FC and Tottenham pulled Newcastle out of the drop zone, consecutive losses to Crystal Palace, managed by former Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, and West Bromwich have pulled them back into the thick of it.
To add further doom to Tyneside, Pavel Srnicek, a fans’ favourite at St. James’ Park in the nineties, passed away this week at the age of 47. The only silver lining that resentful Geordies can see is cross town rivals Sunderland even further mired in the relegation battle.
The Geordies have their own injury setbacks, with Krul, Haidara and Riviere all on the medical team’s table at this congested stage of the season. With Vernon Anita adding his name to the injury list in the last fixture against West Brom, Tiote would likely pair up with Sissoko to hold the hosts, while Georginio Wijnaldum will provide the creativity and vision in any counter-attacks Newcastle attempt.
Probable Starting XI (4-5-1) Darlow,; Janmaat, Mbemba, Coloccini, Dummet; Tiote, Sissoko, Colback, Wijnaldum, Perez ; Mitrovic.
- There have been 18 goals scored in the last three Premier League meetings between these two sides at the Emirates Stadium
- Steve McClaren has not beaten Arsene Wenger since 2005 when his Middlesbrough team beat Arsenal FC 2-1
- Arsenal FC striker Olivier Giroud has scored eight goals in seven Premier League games against the Magpies.
- Newcastle have scored only 5 goals on their travels in the Premier League this season, the lowest in the England’s top division so far.
Players to watch out for
Gabriel Paulista (Arsenal FC)
After a brilliant call-back to the first team against Bournemouth, this is surely Gabriel’s best time to cement a place in the first squad. Can he find the consistency that has eluded Mertersacker?
Arsenal FC 3-1 Newcastle United
An away game for Newcastle usually spells defeat before the game has even begun and this fixture should be no different. The Gunners will be aiming to put the blip of inconsistent results like Southampton behind them and the best way to do that is to forge another winning run.
Blast from the Past