Premier League 17/18 Week 34: Newcastle United vs Arsenal – Lineups, Preview and Prediction

The resurgent Magpies welcome the travel sick Gunners in an attempt to break the North Londoner’s hoodoo over them

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(Photo Credit: Richard Humphrey)

13:30 BST, Sunday 15th April, St James’ Park (Newcastle, England) Sky Sports

On a run of three successive wins in the league and 6 matches unbeaten at home, Newcastle have left the relegation zone for a place in the top half of the table. Win, lose or draw this weekend and they will remain in 10th position, however, victory will mean they cross the hallowed 40 point barrier. To do that though, they will need to beat a team who have defeated them in each of their previous 10 league meetings.

While the Gunners have a history in this fixture, they also carry poor away form into this meeting. Arsenal have lost each of their previous 4 matches on the road, a problem which has haunted them throughout this season and left them with only 3 wins from 15 Premier League trips this campaign. Having just made their way back from claiming a hard-fought draw in Moscow, another failure to win on Sunday would mean Burnley are within a win of taking their 6th placed position in the table.

Last Time Out

Leicester City 1-2 Newcastle United (Premier League)

Newcastle all but mathematically assured their Premier League status this season with a convincing win over Europa League-chasing Leicester. The away side were the better team from the first whistle, showing much more determination to win every 50:50 and second ball on the pitch. 

This extra application from the players rewarded them after only 18 minutes when Ayoze Pérez fed Jonjo Shelvey on the edge of the box and the midfielder bought himself space and time with a clever fake before picking his spot behind Kasper Schmeichel.

Leicester thought Riyad Mahrez should then have had a penalty, however, the midfielder was already falling to the floor when he received minimal contact from Paul Dummett’s challenge. It was the Foxes only significant chance of the game before Jamie Vardy’s late consolation but by then Pérez had already turned from provider to goalscorer with a delightful lob that sealed a deserved victory.

CSKA Moscow 2-2 Arsenal [3-6 agg] (Europa League)

The Gunners held the nerves to climb back from a poor first half and a two-goal deficit to ensure they reached the semi-finals. In a week which produced many memorable stirring comebacks across Europe, Arsenal appeared to be in trouble when Moscow grabbed the lead just before halftime. 

While Petr Cech had made some good saves, his failure to catch a free-kick allowed Fedor Chalov to slot home the opening goal, a situation made worse when Kirill Nababkin doubled their lead 5 minutes into the second half.

It took until the 70th minute for Arsenal to manage their first shot on target, however, Danny Welbeck settled the visitors with a clinical finish soon after. With order restored to the game for the Gunners through their aggregate two-goal advantage, they cruised through the remainder of the tie. Aaron Ramsey levelled the scores on the night with only seconds remaining of added time to provide a result which sets up a mouth-watering clash with Atlético Madrid at the end of this month.

Newcastle United Lineup

Islam Slimani could be in line for his first Newcastle start this weekend after he was ineligible to play against Leicester but Jesús Gámez (ankle) will still be unavailable for Benitez who should otherwise name an unchanged squad for the 4th consecutive game.

Arsenal Lineup

Wenger is likely to make changes to his side after their trip to Moscow last Thursday, David Ospina (ankle) Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knock) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee) will all remain unavailable while Aaron Ramsey (shin) and Granit Xhaka (illness) are also doubtful to start on Sunday.

Key Battle: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle United) vs Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

While many people have been slowly coming to the conclusion that Shelvey should be brought into the England fold, his goal last weekend was his first of the season which is less than the number of red cards he’s picked up in the league since August. However, he has a remarkable ability to dictate play and has also been hitting top gear recently in terms of form which could be a real worry for Wenger’s side.

Another player who is dividing opinion regarding his England credentials in Wilshere, a player who is injury prone but also able to dictate a match’s tempo. While not enjoying the same consistency with his performances as Shelvey in recent weeks, there have been flashes of Wilshere’s abilities on display. If he can produce for his team again today, he could not only help his team to victory but prove why he should be ahead of Shelvey in the England pecking order.

Talking Points

10 more years

Benitez this week spoke of his eagerness to remain with the club for potentially another decade. Having already stated this when the club were securing promotion back to the Premier League last year, he also reaffirmed that he wants Newcastle to be competitive during this time.

Whether a veiled threat to a Newcastle board who must now provide the backing he desires or a rallying call to the fans ahead of this weekend’s clash, the news can only be good for the Toon army. What he appears to be calling for though, is patience. Much of his focus was given to the development of an academy on Tyneside, a move which is much-needed behind the scenes at Newcastle. If they are truly to become a club worthy of their top-half position in the top-flight, they must have a structure in place which can nurture the club’s future and not just his own.

Tactical awareness

While many Arsenal fans continue to call out their long-serving manager, Wenger has shown plenty of tactical nous this season which suggests he’s not the spent force many claim him to be.

Wenger has flipped between using a back-three and a back-four throughout this season, styling his team around his in-form players and moulding a gameplan to fit their current opposition.

Further to this, he showed in Moscow that he’s able to adapt his team’s strategy during the game. His decision to move Mohamed Elneny into a three-man defence at halftime looked to stem the threat of crosses which Moscow were using as their main source of attack. His decision to move Elneny back into midfield by bringing on Calum Chambers for Jack Wilshere showed this system was the right choice. With the ineffective Wilshere leaving the pitch injured, Elneny provided both assists for Arsenal in the English midfielder’s role. 

Prediction: Newcastle United 2-1 Arsenal

With 10 successive wins over Newcastle in the league, Arsenal have enjoyed many trips to the North-East in recent years. However, their midweek trip to Moscow could play a factor in this fixture and if the Magpies can show as much effort and teamwork as they did against Leicester, they could well secure a 4th successive home victory on Sunday afternoon.