Newcastle United: Ryan Taylor - Out; Jonas Guitierrez - Doubtful
Arsenal: Alex Oxlade-Chainberlain, Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey & Yaya Sanogo - Out; Laurent Koscienly - Doubtful
Newcastle United: None
Newcastle United: LWDWW
After a mixed start to the season, Newcastle have really picked up and a victory against Arsenal - which is a real possibility - would see them three points behind their opponents who occupy second place.
Since their defeat to Sunderland, Newcastle have only lost once in ten matches. This run includes victories against: Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United. Add in their draw against Liverpool earlier on in the season, we should be in for a tight match.
The key to their success has been the middle trio of Tiote, Sissoko and Cabaye; they mask a team that is otherwise incredibly inconsistent with their consistent performances. Tiote and Cabaye have protected a defence that otherwise needs Tim Krul to put in a wonder-save bail them out.
As the below shows, Tiote and Cabaye put in several tackles and made many more interceptions, yet despite the work they put in, they are routinely rounded leading to a series of fouls - a major reason why Newcastle have only kept six clean-sheets.
That may not be the best advertisement for a midfield I have just praised, so lets put it like this: without the work ethic of Newcastle's midfield, they would have conceded a lot more.
However, despite obvious flaws in their games, Ben Arfa and in particular Remy have played massive parts in Newcastle being where they are. Needless to say, it has been the Newcastle midfield that has supplied them. Moussa Sissoko in particular has proved to a vital cog in assisting players. His dribbles are extremely effective when on the counter, proving neigh-on impossible to catch when in full flow. This enables him to select passes the likes of Remy can easily finish without too much thought.
Furthermore, after Ben Arfa, Cabaye is the next best technically and he has the ability to start off counters with a telling pass or by getting on the end of shot at the edge of the box - most of his five goals this season have been through long range strikes.
Indeed, there is a sense of Jekyll and Hyde as they are Newcastle's greatest enemies as much as they are Newcastle's greatest assets.
If Arsenal are able to pass the ball anywhere near their highest capacity they will easily expose a defence that has a history capitulating once breached.
Unfortunately, if it were that easy Newcastle would be lounging around the bottom with their neighbours Sunderland, not threatening to finish fourth, As expressed already, Newcastle's midfield are among the hardest working in the league and against the big teams they have simply compressed any space, and then take advantage of their lack of fatigue to form lightening quick counters. It is here Gouffran, Ben Arfa and Remy become really threatening as they have the finishing skills to punish anyone.
However, what could work in favour for Arsenal is the fact they share more in common with some of the teams Newcastle have dropped points against, rather than the big teams they have defeated. Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool and Swansea have all avoided defeat against Newcastle and they all did it by passing Newcastle off the pitch; so much so, they did not get a chance to strike on the counter as much as they wanted as they were penned inside their own box.
Teams like Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham, have a rather lethargic approach to their attacks and have a rather soft underbelly, suiting Newcastle to a tee. Arsenal normally pass the ball with a purpose and aside from their 6-3 loss to Manchester City, defend well.
Had Podolski and Walcott been unavailable, I would have rated this match as a draw, as I feel without them Arsenal lack penetration. However, as Walcott has been showing recently, and as Podolski showed against West Ham, they offer a level of pace and rawness Arsenal's intricate passing needs to be truly incisive.
If Newcastle hope to play deep, eventually Arsenal will find their way through; if Newcastle open up, Arsenal will live up to their nickname by blasting holes through their defence. Either way, I can only see an Arsenal win.
Newcastle United 0-2 Arsenal