When this fixture was played at the end of last season it was noticeably marked with protests from the Newcastle supporters against manager Alan Pardew, who strode into the press conference after a 3-0 defeat and vowed to fight on. What a difference eight months makes.
Now it is Arsene Wenger who is the target of the chants, the banners and the unhelpful boos at train stations. He’ll fight on too, of course, but you have to wonder just how long he’ll put up with it all.
The 4-1 Champions League win over an awful Galatasaray in Istanbul in midweek was welcome, although the words ‘paper’ and ‘cracks’ are very easy to conjure up to describe it.
Something else that’s cracking is of course the Arsenal physio’s bed, as the sheer number of injured Gunners players continues to rise.
Aaron Ramsey – the scorer of that sublime goal in midweek – is the latest addition to the sick list, joining Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Mikel Arteta, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and long-term absentee Mesut Ozil. Calum Chambers is suspended here, too, although there has been a welcome return to fitness for Mathieu Debuchy in the past week. That physio’s room apparently has an Out door as well as an In.
According to this, though, it is Newcastle who apparently have the most injured players in the Premier League right now, amongst them key performers such as Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini and the almost forgotten about Siem De Jong.
Their pride remains very much unharmed though, especially after becoming the first side to beat Chelsea this season when they triumphed 2-1 last week thanks to a brace from super-sub Papiss Cisse.
The Senegalese – another who has had injury problems – can be an effective weapon if used correctly by Pardew, which potentially means another start on the sidelines before being unleashed on a typically makeshift Gunners defence for the final half hour.
This Newcastle won’t roll over at the Emirates (or as Pardew this week suggested it should be renamed ‘The Arsene Wenger Stadium’) like last season’s version did, and the simple task has to just be to stay in the game for as long as possible to play – and get – on the fans’ nerves.
Ultimately though, the Gunners should have just about enough to get the job done in this survival of the fittest, largely thanks to their attacking quartet of Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud, although Lukas Podolski has done his chances of selection no harm in the past week.
The Gunners to win with both teams scoring looks good at 3.45, whilst those less confident in Arsenal’s chances should snap up both teams netting at a very healthy 1.94.
Should Wenger listen to the calls for Podolski to start over Giroud then the German could be a good investment at 2.55 to score at any time, but after Cazorla scored from the spot in the loss at Stoke last week he looks to have his eye in, and could provide a good return at 4.25.
Cisse to score last is also worth considering at 9.00.
Arsenal 2 Newcastle 1 – 8.00
Both teams to score – 1.94
Arsenal to win with both teams scoring – 3.45
Santi Cazorla to score at any time – 4.25