Preview by Numbers: Newcastle United v. Arsenal

St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
Sunday, May 19
11:00 a.m. EDT, 16:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Howard Webb
    • Assistants: Mike Mullarkey and Darren Cann
    • 4th Official: Kevin Friend
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 7 - 3 Newcastle
  • This Match, Last Year: Newcastle 0 - 0 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 67 Arsenal wins, 66 Newcastle wins, 38 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-D-W-W
  • Newcastle's League Form: W-L-D-L-D-W
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 16 C / 60 F
Last year, before the season ending match at West Brom, in this preview I said, "90 minutes to decide their European fate for next season. No time for complacency. It's time to go all in." That, of course, applies 100% yet again.

Three points secures at least a fourth place finish. Anything less does not.

Here we go...

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Diaby (knee)
Doubts: Arteta (calf)

Theo Walcott is always an airplane when he scores.
The big news is that Mikel Arteta walked off against Wigan with a calf injury which puts him in the "serious doubt" category for Sunday, and for Arsenal, that is bad news. Arteta has missed 10 Arsenal games this season. The first four were instances where he was rested, but in January, he missed six straight matches through injury. Arsenal won FA Cup matches against Swansea and Brighton in that period, but in the league, they lost twice (Manchester City and Chelsea,) drew once (Liverpool,) and won once (West Ham.) It's hard to look too deep into those statistics; there's a difference between playing City and Chelsea in January and playing Newcastle (who has nothing to play for) in mid-May.

There are big questions regarding who fills his role. Considering Olivier Giroud returns from suspension, why not start the big Frenchman up front, shift Lukas Podolski back out to the left, then shift the midfielders (Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, and Aaron Ramsey) all back a little deeper? Playing Jack Wilshere (who needs minor surgery) is a risk, in my opinion. Bring him off the bench if you need him after an hour but keep him out of harm's way if you don't.

Newcastle Squad News

Out: Sh. Ameobi (knee), Krul (shoulder), Vuckic (knee), R. Taylor (knee)
Doubts: Tiote (knock), S. Taylor (illness), Haidara (hamstring), Santon (hamstring), Sissoko (knee)
Suspended: Elliot (one match)

Arsenal faced a back-up goalkeeper in last year's final match
of the season, and it proved to be the difference. This year,
they'll get a third stringer they've seen before...
Nobody in the league has an injury list quite like Newcastle. At the back, goalkeeper Tim Krul remains out with a dislocated shoulder, but his substitute Rob Elliot was sent off at Loftus Road and now serves a one match ban. 38-year-old Steve Harper will start between the sticks in what will be his final appearance for the club. He's been with Newcastle for 20 years and this will be his 157th appearance for the Magpies.

Other long term injuries include Haris Vuckic and Ryan Taylor, the latter of whom will receive knee surgery in the United States. Shola Ameobi is also out with a knee problem.

As of now, there is no word on the availability of Cheick Tiote, Davide Santon, Steven Taylor, Massadio Haidara and Moussa Sissoko. Shane Ferguson and Sammy Ameobi are both available after the completion of their loan deals.

Current Form

Newcastle secured their safety last weekend while wearing
this terrible neon color.
This is one of those matches where they say form goes out the window. Arsenal are unbeaten in nine league games and have picked up 23 of their last possible 27 points in those matches. But, everything in the past doesn't really matter now, does it? It's all about these three points on the table right now. Nothing more.

As for Newcastle, their 2-1 win at QPR secured their safety last weekend. After the match, Alan Pardew said he didn't care if Newcastle lost 4-0 to Arsenal on the final day of the season, comments he obviously had to retract as a joke later. The Magpies had recently lost 3-0 to rival Sunderland and 6-0 to Liverpool before a draw with West Ham and the win over QPR finally secured the North East side's safety for next season.

A bit of a side fact, and a curious statistic, but it's been seven years since Newcastle won their last home match of the season.

Match Facts

This was a really really long time ago.
The last time Arsenal played at St. James' Park feels like forever and a half ago: it was last year's season opener, on August 13, 2011. Joey Barton was involved, Gervinho was sent off, Alex Song picked up a three match ban after the fact, Arsenal hadn't even sold Samir Nasri or Cesc Fabregas yet, and the referee from that day (Peter Walton) is now retired. Arsenal's previous trip to Newcastle also famously involved Joey Barton, a red card, two penalties, Phil Dowd, and some unpleasantness. All of that aside, those matches were a very long time ago and there will be no Joey Barton involved on Sunday.

Arsenal emphatically won the reverse fixture 7-3 just before New Year's. Theo Walcott opened the scoring but Demba Ba equalized before halftime to make it 1-1 at the break. Arsenal and Newcastle traded goals until it was 3-3, then Theo Walcott scored two more for the hat trick, Olivier Giroud off the bench added two more and rattled the crossbar with a chance to make it hat trick within 20 minutes for him, as Arsenal finished with a flourish.

The Referee

Howard Webb carefully handles
a dinosaur egg.
The referee is South Yorkshire-based Howard Webb. Since the last time Arsenal had Webb at Old Trafford (which was a scoreline we'd all rather forget,) the Gunners have won six consecutive Premier League fixtures with Webb in the middle. The only two results that have not been victories for Arsenal in eight matches since that dreadful August afternoon in Manchester were FA Cup ties (the 2-0 loss at Sunderland last year and the 2-2 draw in Swansea in January.)

The six victories, as mentioned above: 2-1 against Sunderland in October 2011, 1-0 against Everton in December 2011, 2-1 against Newcastle in March 2012, 2-0 at Liverpool in August 2012, 5-2 against Tottenham in November 2012, and most recently 2-1 over West Bromwich Albion in early April, in which Per Mertesacker was (correctly) sent off.

Newcastle have seen Webb four times this year and lost three of them: 3-0 to Manchester United, 2-1 to Stoke City, and 3-0 to Sunderland. The one win, however, was at home over Chelsea, 3-2 on February 2.

Around the League

All matches are played simultaneously on Sunday.
  • Chelsea v. Everton; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Liverpool v. Queens Park Rangers; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Manchester City v. Norwich City; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Southampton v. Stoke City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Swansea City v. Fulham; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Tottenham Hotspur v. Sunderland; White Hart Lane, London
  • West Bromwich Albion v. Manchester United; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • West Ham United v. Reading; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Wigan Athletic v. Aston Villa; DW Stadium, Wigan