Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side host Newcastle at Emirates Stadium on Saturday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
After a disastrous start to 2015/16, Newcastle revived their campaign in December with two unexpected victories at home to Liverpool, then away at Tottenham.
Those performances suggest they’re happiest when soaking up pressure before counter-attacking sporadically, and therefore Steve McClaren will deploy similar tactics at the Emirates. Newcastle are recording very low statistics in terms of both possession and shots, but are capable of being ruthless in the final third.
There’s been a significant defensive improvement, in part because the midfield and forwards are working much harder to protect the back four.
Cisse is a clinical finisher on his day but has lacked sharpness this season, while De Jong is excellent in a technical sense but still hasn’t adjusted to the pace of Premier League footballMichael Cox
The defenders themselves deserve credit for good organisation, however, and centre back Chancel Mbemba has been one of the bright notes this season, ever-present since joining from Anderlecht in the summer.
The more experienced Fabricio Coloccini has been less consistent, and often loses the player he’s supposed to be marking at set-pieces. The Argentine also lacks pace, and therefore Paul Dummett plays a narrow left-back role to help protect him.
On the right, Daryl Janmaat has made some defensive errors this season, but has also regularly been Newcastle’s brightest attacking option, happy to dribble the ball forward dangerously from deep.
The real improvement in Newcastle’s defensive record, though, is down to Vurnon Anita and Jack Colback, two tough-tackling midfielders who maintain a position ahead of the back four. Both have a habit of getting into trouble with the referee, however. In possession they keep things simple, tending to move the ball wide rather than attempting more ambitious passes into attack.
The most interesting thing about Newcastle’s system is the role of the wide players. Both Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum are central midfielders by trade, and therefore Newcastle’s midfield quartet is often very narrow, the four players extremely close together without the ball.
Sissoko doesn’t look entirely happy in his right-sided role and tends to attempt to play like a winger, often dribbling down the touchline unsuccessfully - although he’s capable of excellent passes in the final third.
Wijnaldum’s movement suits his game more - he moves diagonally and attempts to get into goalscoring positions. He’s Newcastle’s top goalscorer this season, and is particularly dangerous with curled efforts from inside-right positions.
Up front, McClaren has plenty of options. In recent weeks he’s tended to prefer playing No 9 Papiss Cisse and No 10 Siem de Jong, in the roles you’d expect from their shirt numbers. Cisse is a clinical finisher on his day but has lacked sharpness this season, while De Jong is excellent in a technical sense but still hasn’t adjusted to the pace of Premier League football.
Their struggles mean Newcastle are often most threatening when they introduce their reserve attackers - in the 2-1 victory at Spurs, both Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez scored from the bench.Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source