Arsenal travel to St James’ Park to face Newcastle United in the Premier League on Sunday and may be in for a more difficult afternoon than they would have anticipated.
The Gunners are favourites to pick up all three points given their fine form in recent weeks and the calibre of their squad, but Newcastle are no slouches at home and have enjoyed a real upturn in form. Manager Rafael Benitez has masterminded some impressive victories over Arsene Wenger too.
Arsenal in form, but so are Newcastle
Wenger’s Arsenal side are currently sixth in the Premier League table with 54 points from 32 games this season, coming off the back of three consecutive wins. The Gunners have won six and drawn one of their last seven in all competitions and are in the best form of the campaign so far.
They have an outstanding head-to-head record against Newcastle too, boasting 10 wins from their last 10 meetings. Arsenal haven’t lost to the Magpies since 2010 and their 1-0 home defeat to United remains their only loss in 13 years.
Newcastle aren’t in bad form themselves, however. The Toon Army are four points and 16 points worse off than Arsenal in the table but have won their last three ahead of the visit of the Gunners. Benitez has also won two of his last four head-to-heads with Wenger.
United have been solid at home too, boasting a six-game unbeaten run (12 points) at St James’ Park (three wins, three draws) so they won’t fear Arsenal this weekend – especially given the visitors’ poor away record and the fact they may rest key players for the Europa League.
Gunners have two major problems ahead of meeting
Wenger has already suggested Arsenal’s busy fixture list could result in their form dipping which could mean he has to prioritise in regard to team selection.
For last Sunday’s win over Southampton, Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey were left out of the matchday squad, while Nacho Monreal, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Alexander Lacazette were named on the bench.
The Gunners boss will have a similar decision to make against Newcastle as his side have just three days to prepare for their Europa League semi-final meeting with Atletico Madrid.
Newcastle may face a second-string team which will boost their chances of getting a result, as will Arsenal’s poor away form. The Londoners have been woeful on the road all season and haven’t won an away game in the Premier League since December 2017.
Arsenal’s away form in 2018 (in all competitions)
With Arsenal five points clear of sixth and 13 points adrift of fourth, they have little to play for in the Premier League other than pride. As a result, their meeting with Newcastle might not be a priority given their league position looks unlikely to change from sixth and they have a chance at European glory days later.