Aiming to avoid sharing the same fate as bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal make the long and arduous journey to St James’ Park for a Premier League date with Newcastle United on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams enjoyed 3-1 victories in their most recent fixtures, as the Magpies came from behind to see off Southampton, while Mikel Arteta’s men convincingly put Chelsea to the sword.
Setting a new record for the most Premier League goals scored by a Newcastle player in a single month – leaving the great Alan Shearer in his wake – Callum Wilson defined the term super sub when he was introduced into the fray against a relegation-battling Southampton squad.
Ruben Selles’s basement team had stunned St James’ Park through Stuart Armstrong’s opener on the stroke of half time, but Wilson dusted off his best shooting boots during the break before netting a pair of strikes either side of Theo Walcott’s own goal to complete an emphatic turnaround.
With eight wins to show from their last nine Premier League fixtures, Eddie Howe’s goal-happy crop can assure themselves of at least a top-seven finish with all three points on Sunday, and the Champions League fantasy becomes closer to a reality with every passing week for the third-placed hosts, who hold a six-point lead over sixth-placed Liverpool with a game in hand.
While the Magpies can always be relied upon to deliver the goods in the final third – scoring at least twice in all of their recent eight wins – their defensive acumen has deserted them at the wrong time, with just one clean sheet to boast from their last 15 matches in all competitions.
Nevertheless, Howe’s men enter Sunday’s blockbuster battle on the back of four straight wins at St James’ Park, and their only defeats on home soil since January 2022 have been a pair of losses to Liverpool; few Arsenal fans will need a reminder of how their visit to Tyneside panned out this time last year.
Even by Frank Lampard’s own admission, his disjointed Chelsea team are too easy to play against right now, and the visit of their London rivals was the perfect tonic for an Arsenal side who are officially no longer in control of their title destiny.
Three humbling draws and a 4-1 trouncing at the hands of Manchester City saw the ‘bottling’ accusations come to the fore, but Mikel Arteta’s men ignored the outside noise and strolled to a three-goal success over the Blues on Tuesday, as Martin Odegaard’s brace and Gabriel Jesus’s finish preceded a well-earned consolation from Noni Madueke.
While lamenting his side’s inability to extend their lead to four or five goals during an early period of second-half dominance, Arteta defiantly affirmed that the fire in his players’ bellies was still burning bright, as they lie one point adrift of new leaders Man City having played a game more – the champions can extend their lead by beating Leeds United on Saturday, though.
Victory for Arsenal at St James’ Park would guarantee a top-two finish for the soon-to-be Champions League returnees, who have both scored and conceded in each of their last eight matches during a worrying downturn in defensive fortunes, but they have found the back of the net in 16 successive matches since a 1-0 loss to Everton in early February.
Arteta’s side also remain the best-performing team on the road this season, despite failing to win any of their last three on rival territory, and it was men against boys when Newcastle strolled to a 2-0 win over the Gunners last May before Howe’s dogged defence held out for a 0-0 draw at the Emirates in January.
Newcastle United Premier League form:
Arsenal Premier League form:
We say: Newcastle United 2-2 Arsenal
Newcastle’s efforts to frustrate Arsenal away from home worked a treat in January, but with concerns over both of the Gunners’ first-choice centre-backs, Howe’s men should adopt a forward-thinking approach to trouble a porous visiting defence.
However, the Magpies are not the same rearguard force that they were in the earlier stages of the season, and we expect Arsenal to right the wrongs of last year’s Tyneside trip to glean a point, albeit one that may force them to kiss their title hopes goodbye.