A depleted Arsenal side lacking motivation for a forlorn top four chase were put to the sword 2-1 by Rafa Benitez’s Magpies back in April - but a repeat at St James’ Park this weekend seems unlikely.
Unai Emery has refocused lazy minds within the Gunners dressing room, and based on three strong attacking performances in succession (where they have plundered eight goals) they should have too much firepower for a Newcastle United team that’s fallen into a habit of parking the proverbial bus.
We all know that the Reds’ away form could not be trusted in Arsene Wenger’s farewell campaign, but securing a hard-fought three points at Cardiff City last time out feels like a game-changer.
Yes, the Gunners did once again look exceedingly fragile at the back – and the hosts will certainly be encouraged by that – but with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back among the goals, fans will make the long trek north with greater confidence.
Lacazette is in wonderful form.
He may have only started one Premier League match so far this term, but the Frenchman’s contributions have been consistently outstanding, just as they had been in pre-season.
He scored in this fixture earlier this year, volleying home an Aubameyang cross, and I fully expect the Frenchman to make the net bulge once again on Tyneside.
The way he is combining with Arsenal’s record signing is a joy to watch, and I sense that pairing will provide Benitez’s back line with all sorts of headaches.
Newcastle have switched to three at the back in their last couple of outings, but in my view they are just not as solid as they were when the injured Florian Lejeune was partnering skipper Jamaal Lascelles in a four-man rearguard.
So if you’re seeking a little more value for other potential Arsenal goalscorers, I’m happy to tip up Aaron Ramsey or Shkodran Mustafi.
No one at Emirates Stadium has had more than Ramsey’s five shots on target from six tries, and Mustafi (who scored last time out) has been a constant menace at set pieces.
The defender has also managed six efforts on goal, four of which have hit the target.
As for Newcastle, the team with the third fewest shots so far in the Premier League, it is hard to know what to expect.
Last season they slayed several big guns on home turf, but in the opening few weeks they have lacked punch, with the supporting midfielders detached from their lone striker; either Joselu (2 goals) or the goalless Salomon Rondon.
On paper this is the perfect time for Benitez to change tact.
Arsenal are still waiting for their first clean sheet, and have looked decidedly dodgy in defence, averaging two goals conceded per game.
But will the northeast giants be brave enough to test them? Or is this going to be another case of 11 men sat behind the ball waiting for a rare counter?
Ayoze Perez, who has scored in two of the last six meetings between these two sides is somebody that may trouble the Gunners if they take the initiative.
Popping up in unorthodox positions the forward is a 4/2 shot to score. (Redbet) Looking at the bigger picture, I would anticipate a fairly even affair in terms of the score line.
The Magpies rarely fold completely under Benitez, so even if they are outplayed or completely dominated territorially I would expect them to hang in there and be competitive.
The last five meetings at St James’ Park have seen just one goal separate the sides too, and before that we witnessed a couple of draws.
In fact you have to go back to 2009 for the last occasion where the margin of victory was above a single goal in this fixture.
My hunch is that Emery’s improving side will contrive to concede again, but that they will still have plenty enough talent in the tank in order to take the spoils.
This is another horrendous fixture for Benitez. It will be a surprise if Newcastle United’s winless start to 2018-19 doesn’t continue.
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