A well-rested Arsenal side will be looking to end 2012 on a positive note when they are visited by Newcastle United at the Emirates on Saturday (5.30pm GMT, live on ESPN).
Arsenal were due to face West Ham on Boxing Day, but the match was postponed due to a London-wide tube strike, giving them a few extra days rest compared to Newcastle, who came out on the losing side of a seven-goal thriller away to Manchester United.
The Gunners’ position of sixth in the table is, then, not especially accurate, as they have a match in hand over those around them that if won would see them move ahead of local rivals Tottenham Hotspur into fourth place.
Arsene Wenger’s (pictured) men have accumulated 30 points from their 18 matches to date, winning eight, drawing six and losing four.
After a run of one win in six through November and early December they have now won three matches on the bounce, the most recent of which was a 1-0 win away to Wigan last Saturday.
It was a functional performance that yielded three points despite Wigan putting a lot of pressure on the ball and generally looking the brighter of the two teams. Arsenal were well organised defensively and got the bit of luck they needed to take victory when a soft penalty was awarded following a challenge on Theo Walcott – Mikel Arteta stepping up to convert from the spot.
Arsenal have certainly not been at their best so far this season, but that result did briefly elevate them to third in the table, showing that not all is bad at the Emirates.
Inventive Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla has quickly settled into English football, with seven goals and four assists since his summer move from Malaga. Walcott has provided additional pace and incision since returning from injury. The Gunners possess one of the best defensive records in the Premier League, with just 18 conceded.
New signings Oliver Giroud and Lukas Podolski are yet to perform on a consistent basis and Arsenal have been open to teams who have attacked them at pace, but they are still in the running for a top four finish and are still alive in the Champions League.
Wenger’s opposite number Alan Pardew would love to be in a similar position at this stage of the season, but instead finds his Newcastle side in 15th place. They are just five points clear of the relegation zone, following their 4-3 defeat away to Manchester United on Boxing Day.
Javier Hernandez’s 90th minute winner was the final kick in the teeth for Pardew, who had seen his side lead on three separate occasions only to succumb finally to United’s pressure and go away empty handed.
He will, nevertheless, have been happy with aspects of a performance that was much improved over those that had seen Newcastle lose six of their previous eight Premier League matches. They showed plenty of effort and application and also carried a significant goal threat considering the degree to which they were out-possessed by their hosts.
It was not enough to secure points, however, and Pardew will be concerned that his side have now lost seven of their last nine matches. Indeed, Newcastle have won just four of their last 15 in the league, and are yet to record a victory away from home this season.
The long term injury-enforced absence of Yohan Cabeye has deprived Newcastle of creativity in the centre of midfield, while Hatem Ben Arfa’s fitness problems have further constrained their ability to penetrate in the final third.
With Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse also failing to form an effective partnership up front it can come as little surprise that Newcastle are scoring fewer goals than last season (1.21 per match, on average, compared to 1.47 last season).
The Magpies are also conceding marginally more goals than last season, which combined with the shortage of goals goes a long way to explaining their predicament.
Newcastle are said to be lining up two or three new signings in January, signings that will be gratefully received by Pardew as he attempts to steer his side away from the lower reaches of the table.
Arsenal v Newcastle Betting Tips
No new signings will be forthcoming before Saturday’s trip to the Emirates, however, and with Vurnon Anita and Jonas Gutierrez joining an ever growing injury list, Pardew’s depleted Newcastle side should offer relatively easy pickings for Arsenal.
With confidence at least partially restored by three consecutive victories, the Gunners should have the necessary creativity to make light work of a Newcastle defence that is yet to keep a clean sheet away from home this season.
- Back Arsenal to win @ best odds of 1/2 with Ladbrokes.
- Arsenal have opened the scoring at home before the 26th minute on four occasions this season, while Newcastle have conceded before the 35th minute in five of their away matches to date. We therefore suggest backing the time of 1st home goal (Arsenal) to be before the 35th minute @ 5/6 with Bet365.