The busy schedule continues but we come into Saturday night’s clash with Arsenal on a high, returning to Tyneside with a spring in our step after that brilliant 3-0 win over Man Utd in midweek.
It was one of THE most satisfying and impressive wins of the Eddie Howe era, as several forgotten Mags impressed on their first starts of the season. It handed much-needed rests to several key players in need of a break and regains some momentum we’d lost after frustrating results against Borussia Dortmund and Wolves.
Arsenal will be another huge test, but they lost 3-1 at West Ham while we were running riot at Old Trafford, giving us no reason to fear following a run of four wins and two draws in our last six league games.
Reflecting on Wednesday’s win and looking ahead to the Arsenal test ahead, Howe had this to say in Friday’s press conference:
“It was great to be able to give everyone an opportunity and I thought they responded magnificently. It was a brilliant team effort. I thought the spirit, determination and collective mindset was at the highest level. We are in a good place mentally after the win – the whole squad will be lifted by that performance.
“Arsenal last year, it speaks for itself what they achieved. I think they have moved on from last year, mentally moved on and stepped it up. They are unbeaten, it is a really big test of our credentials. We are going to have to find ways to make it very difficult for them but we are looking forward to the game.”
It looks like we’ll be without NINE first-team players in Alexander Isak (groin), Jacob Murphy (dislocated shoulder), Elliot Anderson (back), Sven Botman (knee), Sandro Tonali (suspension) Lewis Miley (glandular fever), Harvey Barnes (foot) and Javier Manquillo (groin), with Matt Targett (hamstring) also sidelined after his injury at Old Trafford.
Fabian Schar has been unwell this week, but Howe seems to think he’ll be OK. With Botman out and unlikely to return anytime soon, let’s hope he makes a full recovery.
For the visitors, Martin Odegaard is expected to return alongside Gabriel after both were benched for their 5-0 win over Sheffield United. Gabriel Jesus, Thomas Partey, Jurrien Timber and Emile Smith-Rowe will miss out.
Predicted line ups
(4-3-3): Pope – Trippier, Lascelles, Schar, Burn – Longstaff, Bruno, Joelinton – Almiron, Wilson, Gordon.
I expect all of those who were rested on Wednesday night to return here, meaning Pope, Trippier, Lascelles, Schar, Burn, Bruno and Wilson should come back into the side.
There’ll be a temptation to play Livramento and/or Hall after both delivered outstanding displays in the cup, but this is a defence that’s kept four clean sheets in our last six league games. Their time will come again soon in the coming weeks.
In midfield, I don’t think Willock will start two games four days after his first start in six months, so it could be Joelinton alongside Bruno and Longstaff, with Callum Wilson returning up top after a rest.
The Gunners lost in midweek, but they’ll have big guns back for this one, with Saliba, Odegaard, Martinelli and Saka all fit and ready to return.
However, this is a Newcastle side who’ve lost just three Premier League home games in two years under Howe. One of those came against Arsenal back in May, but our midweek win gives us a huge lift and included much-needed rests for several key players.
It’ll be a tough test. I expect them to try and silence the crowd, keep the ball and attempt to break our press while playing out from the back, but I back us to compete and come away with a point.
NUFC Blog prediction: Newcastle 1-1 Arsenal