Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side travel to Newcastle United on Sunday for the final game of the Premier League season, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Lee Ryder for their views.
Newcastle United have finally secured survival after a difficult Premier League campaign where Alan Pardew has frequently appeared unsure of his best starting XI.
Having previously been uncertain of whether to play one or two centre forwards, the January departure of Demba Ba - who scored twice in the reverse fixture - has at least encouraged Newcastle to play in a relatively consistent 4-2-3-1 formation, with Papiss Cisse up front.
Newcastle are at their best when the midfield combination of Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye are performing wellMichael Cox
Cisse is supported by three energetic midfield runners, the disciplined Jonas Gutierrez will start on the left, while the creative Hatem Ben Arfa should play a central role with Yoann Gouffran, a quick wide player, out on the right. However, there could be flexibility among this trio.
Newcastle are at their best when the midfield combination of Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye are performing well. They play very different roles - Tiote will sit deep and attempt to disrupt the creative play of Tomas Rosicky, while Cabaye boasts a little more guile, although is also capable of some hard tackles.
Newcastle can lack compactness, though. In the recent 6-0 defeat to Liverpool, they were consistently opened up with through balls in behind their high defensive line when Coutinho was given too much time on the ball. With the passing quality of Rosicky and Cazorla, and the pace of Theo Walcott, this might be a promising situation for Arsenal.
Walcott will be Arsenal’s key attacking weapon. With Massadio Haïdara and Ryan Taylor injured and Davide Santon rated as doubtful, Pardew has used centre back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa on the left in Newcastle’s last two matches. He gives Newcastle extra aerial power, but is positionally uncertain at full back and Walcott should be able to get in behind him.
At centre back, the combination of Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini are powerful in the air, so while the probable return of Olivier Giroud will provide more variety to attacking play, Arsenal must be careful they don’t play into Newcastle’s hands with too many crosses.
LEE RYDER, NEWCASTLE EVENING CHRONICLE
At the start of the season, I don't think anyone anticipated fighting against relegation, especially last season after finishing fifth. It's a chance to finish on a high against Arsenal. A win on Sunday could propel Newcastle to 10th or 11th which could be the difference between a significant amount of prize money, so it's a big game for them as well.
It's been one of those seasons where the team have performed in fits and starts. Consistency hasn't been the watchword up here unfortunately. Papiss Cisse's goals have been absolutely vital - especially the ones against West Brom, Fulham and Stoke. Without them, I really would fear for where Newcastle would be this season. I think if the service had been better, he would have had an even better season.
I think that Newcastle have to finish with a bit of a bang. It's Steve Harper's last game so I think they will go hell for leather to winLee Ryder
I'd imagine Alan Pardew will pick a strong team. Newcastle have had injury problems all season, with the likes of Cabaye and Coloccini missing for large periods. Unfortunately for Arsenal, I think this will be one of the strongest teams Newcastle have had all season. When they were beaten 7-3 at Emirates Stadium, there were a few youngsters around the squad but I think it will be a very different team on Sunday. The only youngster that may have a chance is a young striker called Adam Campbell.
The big problem for Newcastle this season has been a lack of back-up. The squad wasn't strong enough for the first part of the season. When injuries kicked in, and there were a lot of them, there was no one to cover. In the second half of the campaign, the players needed were signed but they've taken a bit longer to settle than we thought. When they've played, they've done really well in some games like against Chelsea. Hopefully that can improve next season.
I think that Newcastle have to finish with a bit of a bang. It's Steve Harper's last game so I think they will go hell for leather to win. It's going to be a tough one for Arsenal and I can see Newcastle edging a narrow win.Copyright 2013 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 17 May 2013