Arsenal will be under pressure to overcome their stumbling start to the season when they visit Newcastle United on Saturday. Despite a buildup to the season in which Arsene Wenger had stressed the importance of a strong opening to the campaign and spoke openly about his ambition to land a first Premier League title in more than a decade, Arsenal have taken just four points from their first three matches. A home loss to West Ham and narrow win over Crystal Palace were followed up on Monday by a goalless draw at home to Liverpool.
The result also left Arsenal with just two goals from their first three matches, both coming away from the Emirates Stadium. And, while Wenger has stressed he expects the situation to improve, he accepted that Arsenal may right now be more dangerous playing away from home.
“Maybe we are not firing on all cylinders at the moment,” he said in his pre-match press conference on Thursday. “Not everybody is ready physically. But as well, by definition, the finishing is a little bit cyclical and it goes in cycles. Finishing qualities come and go and you do not always know why, but certainly at the moment we want it so much at home that we want to force it a little bit.
“Our results away from home, with goalscoring opportunities and our finishing percentage has been higher recently. Teams come and defend very deep at our home, so as long as we have not scored the first goal it is maybe more difficult to open up the defenses and in the recent two games that’s what happened to us.”
It appears as if it will be down to those currently at the club to begin firing the goals. Arsenal have been linked with a series of striker this summer, but, while Wenger said that he was still open to bringing a player in before next Tuesday’s transfer deadline, he stressed that the club weren’t close to finalizing any signing.
Arsenal’s defense could also be a concern against Newcastle. Laurent Koscielny (back) and Per Mertesacker (illness) were both ruled out against Liverpool, leading to a shaky first-half performance in particular for replacements Calum Chambers and Gabriel. Arsenal’s first-choice center-back duo remain doubts for the trip to St James’ Park.
In contrast, Newcastle’s defense should come into the clash full of confidence after battling to a goalless draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford last week. But manager Steve McClaren believes his team will again have their work cut out to restrict an Arsenal team he expects to mount a real championship challenge.
“Arsenal are a top four team full of very good individual players who can hurt you from all over the pitch -- I would pay to watch them because they play football the right way,” he said, according to Newcastle United’s official website. “They are genuine title contenders again this season and always will be, because they have the squad and ability within that. Concentration, defensive solidity and keeping the ball will be key, just as they were when we recorded an excellent goalless draw at Old Trafford seven days ago.”
McClaren made 10 changes to his lineup as Newcastle neat Northampton Town 4-1 in the second round of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, with the star of the show undoubtedly new signing Florian Thauvin. Making his first start since his transfer from Marseille, the French winger netted a goal and set up three others to put himself firmly in the frame to start against Arsenal. Newcastle should also have striker Papiss Cisse back after he missed out in midweek, while midfielder Moussa Sissoko may return after a groin injury.
Kick off Time: 7:45 a.m. EDT
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra