Arsenal face Newcastle United in the Premier League at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
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COMETH THE HOUR, COMETH THE MAN
Vermaelen v Newcastle - Heatmap (Successful passes - Green, Unsuccessful - Red)
In the corresponding fixture last season, the pressure was firmly on Arsenal as they chased a top-four place. With every point vital as they slugged it out with Chelsea, Tottenham and Newcastle, Arsène Wenger's side really needed a victory to maintain momentum in the final stages of a challenging season.
Newcastle had Champions League aspirations themselves but with the game locked at 1-1 as the game entered injury time, a frustrating draw appeared to be on the cards. But Thomas Vermaelen was determined to do everything in his power to secure the three points for his side.
As our heatmap above shows, the Belgian centre back spent a vast amount of time stationed high up in his own half, almost on the halfway line. Interestingly, he also spent a significant amount of time in the Newcastle penalty area, far more than you would expect of a central defender.
Our chalkboard (right), indicates just how active he was near the halfway line as he tried to push the side on from the back and in the dying stages he had his reward as he bundled in a late winner.
It was an inspirational performance from Vermaelen as he drove his side on in search of a crucial victory. Let's hope that Arsenal don't need to leave it quite so late on Saturday, though.
STRIKING A CHORD - WALCOTT v BA
Saturday evening's game could see two very different strikers in direct competition at Emirates Stadium as Theo Walcott and Demba Ba lead the lines for their respective sides.
With Olivier Giroud back from injury, there is no certainty Walcott will play through the middle but after two games in the position he would clearly relish the chance to continue. The England international's main attribute is his searing pace, although his passing is also impressive and he has a superior success rate to Ba (84.2 per cent to 77.6 per cent) and has won more of his duels overall.
Not only that, but Walcott has a marginally better success rate in terms of shooting accuracy (55.6 per cent to 52.3 per cent) and also has four assists this season, while Ba is still waiting to claim his first.
The Newcastle man has been continually linked to Arsenal and is more of a poacher than Walcott with 11 goals in the Premier League already this season. Ba waits marginally less time between each goal than Walcott (143.5 minutes to 154.2 minutes), although it should be remembered that the Arsenal forward has primarily played on the right flank this term.
Ba has also created 11 chances for team-mates, an impressive total but still one fewer than Walcott. He will need to be watched very carefully on Saturday.
ARSENAL v NEWCASTLE - MATCH FACTS
- Newcastle have won just one of their last 10 Premier League games against Arsenal (W1 D5 L4)
- The Gunners have had a player sent off in three of their last four Premier League games against Newcastle
- The Gunners haven't won back to back Premier League games at home since April
- Arsenal have won their last three Premier League games, the joint best current run in the division (along with Chelsea)
- Mikel Arteta has made an average of 87 passes per game this season, more than any other player
- Newcastle have played the highest proportion of long passes this season (17 per cent), Arsenal the second lowest (eight per cent)
- The Gunners have only won four of their last 11 Premier League home games (W4 D4 L3)
- Newcastle are 10 points worse off than they were at this point last season
- The last time Newcastle had fewer points after 19 games in the top-flight was 1988-89 (17). They were relegated at the end of that campaign
- Arsenal have made 11 errors leading directly to goals, more than any other side
- Join the conversation on Twitter: #AFCvNUFC
The Matchday Programme is now available on the iPad! Find out more here.Copyright 2014 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 28 Dec 2012