Pre-Match Report

Newcastle United v Arsenal - Preview

By Josh James

THE QUOTE

"In the disappointment, it’s important that we don’t forget we won the game on Tuesday night." – Arsène Wenger

THE SET-UP

The Champions League dream may be over for another year, but if they want to have a crack at next season's competition Arsenal can't afford for Tuesday's disappointment to derail their domestic campaign.

Anyway, as Arsène Wenger has been keen to remind us, the team actually extended their winning run in Monaco, making it five victories in a row and 13 in their last 15. So there are certainly plenty of positives to be found amid the post-mortem of another European exit.

07:53

Wenger pre-Newcastle

"I believe on Tuesday night we produced a performance that was spirited, and had quality," the manager told Arsenal Player.

"When you win 2-0 away from home, normally that should qualify you - if you don't miss the performance at home. So we have to take the positives from that and move on, and focus on our targets now."

The first of those is victory at Newcastle, not only to maintain the pressure on the top two, but also to stay ahead of the chasing pack.

"There’s no margin for error at all," Wenger continued. "We are on the neck of Manchester City while Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Southampton are not completely out of it.

"We are on a very strong run and I believe we are a much better team than four months ago. That’s what we want: to continue to stabilise our results."

ARSENAL

All eyes will be on Olivier Giroud this weekend to see if he can continue his excellent record against Newcastle.

The striker has netted six goals in total against the Magpies - more than he's scored against any other side - including four in the last three meetings.

He's also claimed seven in his last eight games for Arsenal overall, including a goal in each of the four matches he's started since his profligate performance at home to Monaco.

 

"Olivier is strong mentally, has a good team attitude and overall I think he has progressed as a player and he has shown that"

Arsene Wenger

The way he has responded to that forgettable first-leg showing - and repaid the manager's faith in him - has been both impressive and necessary for Arsenal to keep clawing away at Manchester City and Chelsea above them.

 

"I believe he bounced back because he is strong mentally," Wenger said. "On the night [at home to Monaco] maybe he wanted to score too much, and he was a bit tense. I gave him the chance to play again in the game afterwards, and he scored. That's the best way to find your confidence back.

"Olivier is strong mentally, has a good team attitude and overall I think he has progressed as a player and he has shown that."

"I’ve seen him in difficult situations before and I know that he has always responded very well. What you couldn’t predict was how quickly he would respond this time, but I knew that at some stage he would."

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But while Giroud has been racking up the goals, top scorer Alexis Sanchez has been enduring a lean spell, with just one goal from his last 11 outings. His trademark hard-work and perseverance has not deserted him though, and Wenger wants the Chile forward to go back to basics as he tries to rediscover his goalscoring touch.

"I just worry that he wants to force the situation too much because he’s a fighter and sometimes he wants to force his game. He just needs to play his game naturally, as simply as he can and the efficiency can come back," the manager said.

With Arsenal playing their eighth game in 29 days this weekend, the boss may decide to rejig his attacking options anyway. Tomas Rosicky is back after illness, while the 18 who travelled to Monte Carlo are also all available.

THE OPPOSITION

Whereas Arsenal have lost just three of their last 16 games, Newcastle's form is the exact opposite, with only three wins from the same number of fixtures.

That run included the 4-1 defeat at Emirates Stadium in December, which was their sixth straight reverse against the Gunners.

 

"They don’t have the fear that could sometimes inhibit teams, but I believe the best way is just for us to focus on our performance"

Arsene Wenger

John Carver wasn't in charge for that game, and despite the interim head coach's limited time to prove himself, Wenger doesn't believe he is under extra pressure to succeed.

 

"They are not fighting for relegation, they are safe, so I don’t believe the pressure is as big as it could be if he was fighting not to go down," the Frenchman said.

"He’s in a position where he can do a good job and show that he has the quality that I believe [he has]. The pressure is always big anyway in the Premier League but at least they are not under the pressure of relegation."

In fact it's this freedom, the knowledge that they are one of the few teams with nothing to lose at this stage of the season, that could make them dangerous opponents .

"You never know," Wenger added. "They don’t have the fear that could sometimes inhibit teams, but I believe the best way is just for us to focus on our performance."

The Magpies will be without suspended duo Papiss Cisse and captain Fabricio Coloccini. In fact, they only have 13 senior outfield players available to call upon.

SUMMING UP

It's not often that a team can feel the momentum is still with them after being knocked out of a major competition.

Although Tuesday's 2-0 win in Monaco was ultimately worthless in the context of the Champions League, the victory may yet have value if it can help propel Arsenal to a strong end to the domestic season.

The omens are good. When Bayern Munich eliminated Arsenal in identical circumstances two years ago, the team responded by remaining unbeaten in the Premier League for the rest of the campaign.

A similar reaction this year could yet make for a very satisfying season indeed.

"It’s a period where every game has a big importance," said Wenger. "The consistency also keeps the confidence very high and, in the disappointment, it’s important that we don’t forget we won the game on Tuesday night.

"Even if it feels like a defeat, it’s still difficult to win away from home in the Champions League. We’ll take the positives to be consistent now."

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