Arsenal vs Newcastle Utd
Steve McClaren finally has his first victory as Newcastle United head coach. Irrespective of the fact it was against League Two opposition, the Magpies’ comfortable 4-1 Capital One Cup Second-Round win over Northampton Town on Tuesday night was extremely significant.
Now McClaren is looking for his opening Barclays Premier League victory as Toon boss. So far this season, Newcastle have drawn 2-2 at home to Southampton, been soundly beaten 2-0 away at Swansea City, and earned a hard-fought point via a goalless draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United.
However, the Magpies next face one of their bogey teams in the league, with Arsenal visiting St James’ Park on Saturday lunchtime (12.45pm kick-off). The Gunners themselves have had a somewhat disappointing start to the campaign, with Arsene Wenger’s men claiming just four points from their opening three fixtures despite being touted by many as genuine title contenders this season.
A surprising 2-0 home loss to West Ham United in Arsenal’s opening fixture was followed by a 2-1 victory against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, and then Liverpool left The Emirates with a point on Monday night. Can Newcastle earn McClaren a first Premier League victory as Toon boss this weekend? Or will Arsenal get their title challenge back on track?
The stats – The Gunners
As of Saturday, when the two sides meet on Tyneside in the Premier League, Newcastle will have failed to have beaten Arsenal at St James’ Park since December 10th 2005 – or 3,550 days ago.
On that day, Gilberto Silva was dismissed in the 57th minute for the Gunners for two bookable offences before Nolberto Solano popped up with a brilliant right-footed winner in the 82nd minute. Since then, in nine meetings in all competitions at St James’ Park Newcastle have lost five and drawn four, including being defeated in each of the last three games. Add to those three straight losses that the Magpies have suffered at home at the hands of the Gunners the meetings at The Emirates and Newcastle have lost seven in a row against Arsenal. In fact, the Gunners are unbeaten in their last nine against NUFC, having not lost a game against the Magpies since Andy Carroll rose highest just before half-time to hand Newcastle victory at The Emirates on November 7th 2010, with Laurent Koscielny also seeing red in injury-time. If Steve McClaren’s men are to claim all three points on Sunday, they will need to totally turn their form against the Gunners around. If there’s one Premier League player that the Newcastle United back five have not enjoyed playing against over the past few seasons then it would almost certainly be Olivier Giroud.
Since his first appearance for The Gunners against NUFC back on December 29th 2012 – when he netted twice in Arsenal’s 7-3 demolition of Newcastle at The Emirates – the French forward has scored eight goals in six matches against the Magpies in all. In fact, he has only failed to score against Newcastle once, and he netted four times in two matches against Newcastle last season.
The Stats – The Magpies
Chancel Mbemba has played every single minute of Newcastle United’s Premier League campaign to date, and he has been extremely impressive. After a brilliant debut against Southampton at St James’ Park, he was one of the Magpies’ few decent performers in the 2-0 loss to Swansea City, and he was magnificent in their goalless draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford last weekend. Averaging a staggering 5.7 tackles per game so far this season – the second-highest in the entire division – Mbemba has also made 2.3 interceptions per match and eight clearances per fixture.
It’s been quite a start to life in the Premier League for the 21-year-old Democratic Republic of Congo international, that’s for certain. As a result of their magnificent defensive display at Old Trafford against Manchester United – when they undoubtedly rode their luck on occasion – Newcastle recorded only their fourth Premier League clean sheet this calendar year. Incredibly, that means the Magpies have kept a greater number of clean sheets (four) than they have won games (three) in 2015. Those other three clean sheets came in Newcastle’s three victories this year in fact, against Hull City (3-0), Aston Villa (1-0), and West Ham United (2-0). Can they make it a fifth shutout of 2015 against The Gunners? In 31 appearances for Newcastle United, Remy Cabella scored just once (away at Hull City in January) and provided two assists. Florian Thauvin, meanwhile, has made two appearances – the first of those off the bench – and he has already netted the same number of goals for NUFC as Cabella (one), and has provided a greater number of assists (three). The French winger had a home debut to remember against Northampton Town on Tuesday night in the Capital One Cup, opening the scoring inside three minutes with a magnificent acrobatic volley, then providing three assists for his teammates. He received a deserved standing ovation as he left the field after 64 minutes, and Steve McClaren will surely start him against The Gunners, a side Thauvin has been linked with in the past. Cabella did not fulfil his potential on Tyneside and is a different type of player to Thauvin, so in some ways a comparison between the two is unfair. Yet the fact they traded places this summer makes such a comparison inevitable, and currently Thauvin is coming out on top in the eyes of the Toon faithful… Thauvin, Siem de Jong, Daryl Janmaat and even Mike Williamson (this is not a misprint, Willo actually scored!) all found the back of the net for Newcastle during their comfortable 4-1 Capital One Cup Second-Round victory over Northampton Town on Tuesday night. That game saw the Magpies score four times in a single game for the first time since March 1st 2014, when they also triumphed 4-1 – this time against Hull City at the KC Stadium, when Alan Pardew infamously headbutted David Meyler. It may have only been against League Two opposition, but the fact NUFC have netted four times in a match for the first time in 18 months is surely significant psychologically.
Saturday’s lunch-time kick off will be a treat for the eyes and ears of both suppkrters, but will it be a tepid Arsenal or a resurgent Newcastle who emerges on top at the full time whistle?
Predicted NUFC lineup (4-2-3-1)
Krul, Janmaat, Mbemba, Colo, Haidara, Anita, Colback, Obertan, De Jong, Thauvin, Mitrovic.
Match Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle
Tip of the game: Olivier Giroud to score first @ 4/1 on Bet365.