Newcastle take on Arsenal tomorrow lunchtime looking to put their top of the table credentials to the test.
In many ways this is a test for us. Arsenal are the current league leaders but a win for United would leave us only three points away from the Gunners.
We’ve been pretty woeful against Arsenal in recent years despite the odd positive results like the 4-4 draw at St James’ Park and 1-0 at the Emirates a couple of seasons ago. However we do always tend to turn it on against the big hitters and even if we do end up taking nothing from the game we often cause problems so it will be interesting to see how things pan out.
Cheik Tiote is available once more after missing out the Boxing Day win over Stoke through suspension. However Jonas Gutierrez is still missing as he continues to recover from a calf injury. Ryan Taylor remains sidelined and will be for some time.
Aaron Ramsey will miss the game after picking up a thigh injury in the Boxing Day win over West Ham. Jack Wilshere is available again after suspension while Thomas Rosicky could be recalled after missing out against the Hammers.
Precisely one year ago we played Arsenal and lost 7-3 at the Emirates which was followed up by a 1-0 defeat on Tyneside ensuring Arsene Wenger’s men achieved the double over us last season.
In fact in 19 Premier League games contested between the two sides, United have won only five of them although we have drawn eight of them meaning that Arsenal only one win better off than we are.
Historically we have been the better side at St James’ Park. Of 81 games played on Tyneside in all competitions, United have won 40 compared to 21 for Arsenal with 20 draws making up the numbers.
However home and away, in all competitions, the head-to-head record between the two sides is remarkably similar. There have been 165 games played between the two sides with United winning 62 times which is just shy of Arsenal’s 66 victories. The numbers are made up with 37 draws between the clubs.
Match stats and facts…
Papiss Cisse became only the second non-French player to score for us this season when he scored his penalty on Boxing Day ending a 1,209 minute goal drought in the process.
Yoan Gouffran has scored in five consecutive Premier League home games for Newcastle United. The last player to manage that was Alan Shearer in 1997.
Arsenal have picked up 79 points in 2013 – more than any other side. Newcastle have picked up 54 points in the same period.
Arsenal (along with Tottenham) have picked up the most points on the road this season with 19. Newcastle have picked up 15 points away from home this season.
It’s hard not to say this is some form of test for us but the reality is that we’ve got this far just by taking things a game at a time so why not carry on doing just that?
Arsenal are one of those funny sides. They can blow you away but they can also be got at and we need to make sure we get at them from the word go. Get them rattled, get the crowd fired up and see what happens. We can beat them but it won’t be easy, not by any stretch of the imagination.
Howay the lads!
Date: Sunday, 29th December, 2013
Venue: St James’ Park