Newcastle v Arsenal - Premier League: Big Game Preview
Arsenal's fortunes have ebbed and flowed this season and the Gunners need a strong finish to the campaign if they are to seal Champions League qualification.
Mikel Arteta's men head to Newcastle in the Premier League on Monday for a 20:00 kick-off bidding to bounce back after Thursday's 3-0 defeat to local rivals and fellow top-four hopefuls Tottenham.
Arsenal have shown their character recently, responding impressively after suffering three straight defeats to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton and, following Spurs' 1-0 win over Burnley on Sunday, more of the same is needed.
They snapped that losing streak with a dramatic 4-2 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before beating Manchester United 3-1, West Ham 2-1 and Leeds 2-1 to regain control of the race for fourth spot.
Unhappy derby defeat
A win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last week would have sealed their return to the Champions League but a lack of defensive discipline cost Arsenal as Spurs raced into a 3-0 lead inside 47 minutes.
That defeat could have a knock-on effect at Newcastle, who are 4.20 to beat their 1.83 visitors with the draw 3.75.
Rob Holding, sent off in the 33rd minute at Tottenham, is suspended and there are fitness doubts over fellow centre-backs Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes. With Kieran Tierney and key midfielder Thomas Partey already sidelined, Gunners boss Arteta needs some of his lesser lights to raise their game at St James' Park.
Arteta's first-choice defensive unit impressed during the autumn but an unsettled Arsenal rearguard has been less convincing recently and they have kept only one clean sheet in their last 10 Premier League matches.
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Their away form is also a cause for concern as eight of their 12 league defeats have come on the road although they eased to a 2-0 win over Newcastle in November's reverse fixture which came early in Eddie Howe's reign.
Howe's men have lost their last two games against the title contenders Manchester City (5-0 at the Etihad Stadium) and Liverpool (1-0 at home) although they had won their previous six league matches at St James' Park before the narrow defeat to the Reds.
The Magpies have taken just two points from 13 matches against the Premier League's top seven this term and Arsenal will hope to maintain that trend in Newcastle's final home fixture of the campaign.
Newcastle pose aerial threat
Newcastle's 5-0 loss at Manchester City featured the welcome returns from injury of England full-back Kieran Trippier and striker Callum Wilson, both of whom are hoping for starts against Arsenal.
As well as Trippier's experience and defensive qualities, he offers the Magpies terrific set-piece delivery which could be valuable against an Arsenal side missing some of their more physically imposing players.
Tottenham's second goal against the Gunners came from a corner and Newcastle have some good headers of the ball in their ranks, including striker Chris Wood and defenders Dan Burn, Fabian Schar and Jamaal Lascelles.
Wood is 7/1 to be first goalscorer on Monday while Schar is 22/1 to break the deadlock and Burn and Lascelles can be backed at 14/1 to score at any time.
Fast start expected at St James' Park
Over 1.5 first-half goals, on offer at 13/8, has played out in each of Arsenal's last five Premier League matches and a similar pattern could ensue on Monday.
The Gunners were 2-0 down at the break against Tottenham while Eddie Nketiah scored twice in the first 10 minutes of their previous game against Leeds and it was 1-1 at half-time when they faced West Ham.
Before those fixtures, the Gunners' games against Chelsea and Manchester United had featured seven first-half goals and nine of Newcastle's last 15 matches had at least two goals in the first 45 minutes.
In the Magpies' nine home league fixtures since Christmas the first goal has come in the seventh, 49th, 36th, 35th, 12th, 72nd, 19th, 32nd and 19th minutes so, looking at those stats, another lively start could be on the cards.
It's 3.00 that there is a goal inside the first 15 minutes on Monday.
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