Raucous Newcastle will be tough task for Arteta's nervy Arsenal

Arsenal have gone from within touching distance of the Champions League to needing a win to stay in the hunt… they have won 18 of their last 19 against Newcastle but a raucous St James’ Park will still be a tough task for Mikel Arteta’s nervy squad

  • Arsenal were a win away from Champions League football ahead of Spurs trip 
  • But disastrous derby outing means they have to win to stay in the top four race 
  • Gunners will likely have to field an extremely makeshift backline at Newcastle 
  • But their recent record against the Magpies will give Mikel Arteta’s men hope 

A week being a long time in football is among the oldest sayings in the book, but Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal have found out it still rings true in the toughest way possible.

Seven days ago they were a win at Tottenham away from securing Champions League football for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Even a draw at their north London rivals would probably have been enough.

But a disastrous first half at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium which saw an incredibly dubious penalty given and Rob Holding rightly sent off killed off any prospect of a derby classic.

Arsenal’s defeat at Tottenham means they are now behind in the race to finish in the top four

The pressure has been piled on Mikel Arteta and his men after a disastrous north London derby

The Gunners went on to lose 3-0 and now go into their clash against Newcastle outside of the top four after Spurs’ nervy 1-0 win at home to Burnley.

By hook or by crook, Antonio Conte’s men are now ahead in the top-four race by two points and have piled the pressure on Arteta’s young squad, who visit one of the most raucous atmospheres in the country in Newcastle on Monday night.

Further to that, the Spaniard’s small and largely inexperienced squad is already incredibly stretched. Gabriel Magalhaes went off with a suspected hamstring injury at Spurs, while Ben White’s own issue does not appear to have fully healed.

Both of the Gunners’ first-choice centre-backs this season have reportedly travelled to the north east but neither are certain to start.

They now face Eddie Howe’s Newcastle, who have an excellent home record this calendar year

First-choice centre-backs Gabriel (left) and Ben White (right) are injury doubts for the Gunners

Left-back Kieran Tierney and midfielder Thomas Partey will also miss the two remaining games, with the former a particular blow due to the inconsistency of Nuno Tavares and Cedric Soares this season. 

Arteta’s biggest problem therefore is his backline, particularly as he is relying on one of Gabriel or White to pass their fitness test to field even a vaguely recognisable defence.

The versatile Takehiro Tomiyasu will in all likelihood be moved into central defence, which is not alien to him having played there for both Bologna and Japan.  

But with no other centre-back in the squad and Cedric and Tavares both likely to be given the nod, it is hardly a defence to inspire confidence in the fans that they can get the job done. 

To make matters worse, up against the Portuguese full-backs will be the tricky Allan Saint-Maximin, who might not yet possess the ruthless nature of a Son Heung-min but with his pace and flair has troubled some of the best full-backs in this league.

Cedric Soares (right) and Nuno Tavares (left) are likely to be part of a makeshift backline

Kieran Trippier and Callum Wilson are also now in contention to start for Eddie Howe’s men following their return from injury off the bench in last Sunday’s 5-0 drubbing at Man City.

Wilson has scored three goals against the Gunners in his career and his return against a weakened backline not only improves Newcastle’s chances but also negatively impacts Arsenal’s. 

Trippier meanwhile will add a further threat from set-pieces with his deliveries. The north London side went 34 games without conceding from one but have now let in goals from corners in their last two games against Leeds and Spurs. 

It is not as if Arsenal’s regular defenders have been on form recently either, with no clean sheet in their last eight Premier League games and the only shutout in their last 10 games being kept by No 2 goalkeeper Bernd Leno in the victory at Aston Villa.

A defensive line unfamiliar with one another will have a midfield that struggled to win the battle at Spurs in front of it. Joelinton will add a more physical presence in there than most for Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny to deal with.

The Portuguese full-backs will come up against the trickery of winger Allan Saint-Maximin

The returning Kieran Trippier (front) and Callum Wilson (back) will also add further impetus

Howe’s men have also been steady in defence at home in 2022, conceding just five goals in eight top-flight matches. 

The match will also be played in front of a set of fans that will be revved up ahead of the game too. Wor Flags – responsible for creating displays at St James’ Park – have promised their ‘biggest display ever’ on Monday night, with foil flags set to be used to create an atmosphere ‘to remember’.

The fanbase being back on side has not only come as a result of the Saudi takeover, but also because Newcastle are becoming a formidable force at home again. They have lost just once on their own turf in 2022, with that defeat coming in Liverpool’s slender 1-0 victory at the back end of last month.

The other worry is that Arsenal have more often than not bunched their losses – which total 12 so far this season – together. The well-documented three straight defeats at the start of season have been followed by consecutive defeats at Man United and Everton at the end of 2021.

Arteta’s men have bunched their losses – as well as their victories – together this season

Three reverses on the bounce to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton after the latest international break then threatened to completely derail their top-four bid. Arteta can ill-afford for his side to continue this trend after losing on Thursday.  

So what can Arsenal look to for some sort of confidence? Looking at their recent record against them, Newcastle would appear to be one of the few sides they would not mind facing after suffering such a devastating defeat.

The Gunners have won 17 out of their last 18 top-flight matches against Newcastle, the latest a 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium in November. 

That record stretches to 18 from 19 when you include last season’s third-round FA Cup win too. The anomaly in both cases is the 2-1 defeat at St James’ Park in April 2018. 

But that game more than four years ago is the only time Arsenal have lost in their last 13 trips to Newcastle, a run which also includes winning seven of the last eight.

But they have beaten Newcastle in 18 of their last 19 games, the latest a 2-0 win in November

On the flip side, Newcastle have failed to score in their last six Premier League games against Arsenal. 

Opta meanwhile also claim the Gunners have beaten Newcastle 33 times in the Premier League – more times than anyone else the Magpies have faced.

The more superstitious among you will wonder about Arsenal’s recent record on Monday nights. The answer is not great, with none of their last three top-flight games on this day yielding a win.

The last time they did win on a Monday however was in a 3-0 win against – you guessed it, Newcastle – in January last year. 

The 3-0 victory against the Magpies in January 2021 is also the last time Arsenal won a Premier League game on a Monday night

Moreover, while the Gunners are stretched defensively, Howe has his own injury issues to contend with. 

Jonjo Shelvey, former Arsenal midfielder Joe Willock and Ryan Fraser are all set to miss out, while another ex-Gunner in Isaac Hayden and Jamal Lewis are longer-term absentees.

But the sort of belief and togetherness Howe has managed to muster in his squad means this is Arsenal’s toughest remaining assignment, even if Everton will not be mathematically safe by the time they visit the Emirates on Sunday.

West Ham’s draw against top-flight leaders Manchester City demonstrated even teams who do not necessarily have anything to play for can pull a result out of the bag. 

Unlike their Merseyside opponents this weekend though, the Gunners will not require any sort of maths degree to work out their equation. Spurs are overwhelming favourites to beat bottom-club Norwich on the final day.

Newcastle will also be without the services of Jonjo Shelvey (above) and Joe Willock

Conte’s men also have a far superior goal difference, and therefore the only way the Gunners can realistically pip their rivals is by collecting more points. 

A draw will not be enough tonight at St James’ Park but Arsenal have had just three of those this season.

It has led them to be a team that has won more games than Chelsea but lost more than Brighton and Crystal Palace this season. 

It is the inconsistency and ‘all or nothing’ approach from Arteta’s men which has seen them fail to seal a return to the Champions League already. Now the Spaniard must ensure it does not result in a sixth straight season out of the competition.

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