A hectic round of matches on Boxing Day saw Arsenal fall from their fourth-place position, though they now have one game in hand due to the cancellation of their match with West Ham. Yet another issue with the tube in London gave Arsenal an extra break that some teams, if not most, could be jealous about.
The Gunners are on a three-match win streak, and will be looking to keep Newcastle at bay on Saturday. The Magpies will arrive at the Emirates coming off a heartbreaking defeat, but in some ways, the loss could turn out to give Newcastle a boost.
Alan Pardew's squad had the lead three times before allowing Manchester United back into the game, and a last ditch goal from Javier Hernandez put an end to the back-and-forth battle.
Scoring three goals at Old Trafford despite not winning should give the players at least a little bit of confidence, no?
Well, for the sake of Arsene Wenger's health (as well as that of Arsenal fans), everyone will be expecting a much better defensive performance on Saturday than Newcastle and Manchester United put on.
With a chance to climb back into the top four thanks to their goal differential advantage over Tottenham Hotspur, Arsene Wenger will expect a confident final performance in 2012 from his players.
Just three weeks ago, both the Premier League fans and media had chopped Arsenal up and thrown them in the trash following their defeat to Swansea City at the Emirates. But Arsene Wenger remained confident, and the players picked up the pieces to put together a decent run of form.
Beating Reading may not be that great of an accomplishment, but lets not forget that Manchester United only managed a 4-3 victory at the Madejski Stadium.
A hard-fought win for Arsenal at DW Stadium against Wigan will also lift the spirits of the players considering the conditions they played in.
Arsenal's beautiful and free-flowing game has failed to appear on a number of occasions this season (as it did several times last season, as well), but playing on a sloppy and rainy pitch is never Arsenal's desire. That win proved to the Arsenal players that, if they believe in themselves and focus on one match at a time, they can prove people wrong.
Last season's match between these two sides had some memorable story lines. Arsenal defeated Newcastle in the home fixture 2-1, with Thomas Vermaelen netting a last-minute equalizer to give the Gunners the full three points. Hatem Ben Arfa and Robin van Persie also scored on the day, but for different reasons, neither will feature on Saturday.
When both sides met at St. James Park last year, it happened to be the opening match of the season. The contest had its moments, as Joey Barton helped to make things interesting when he got involved with debutant Gervinho late in the match.
The match ended goalless, but Arsenal saw their new signing from Lille get suspended due to the altercation with Barton.
03-12-12 Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle
08-13-11 Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal
02-05-11 Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal
11-07-10 Arsenal 0-1 Newcastle
10-27-10 Newcastle 0-4 Arsenal (League Cup)
03-21-09 Newcastle 1-3 Arsenal
Watching Newcastle score three goals against Manchester United proved that when the Magpies are up for it, they can put the ball in the back of the net. Unfortunately for them, they can't seem to keep the ball out of their own net.
A superb season last year has been washed away with their poor start to this season. Fifteenth place is nothing to be proud of, especially with a negative-seven goal differential.
To the surprise of many, Arsenal has the fourth-best defense in the Premier League, behind Stoke (14 GA), Manchester City (16 GA) and Chelsea (17 GA). The Gunners have conceded just 18 goals this season, while scoring 32.
Looking at the way Newcastle defended on Boxing Day, Arsene Wenger will be ordering his players to take it to the visitors.
Having fielded the same starting XI in the last two matches, it will be interesting to see if Wenger opts for the same XI for the third time in a row.
With Theo Walcott's pace along with Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain causing havoc on the outside, Arsenal should be able to take advantage of an under-performing Newcastle side.
Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle
Should Arsene Wenger keep the same starting XI? What is your opinion / prediction for this match?
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