Before every Arsenal fixture, we'll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners' next opponents.
Arsene Wenger's side visit St. James' Park on Sunday to play an in-form Newcastle United, to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Neil Cameron.
Newcastle United are currently on a fine run of form, and Alan Pardew’s strategy has been excellent, especially against big clubs - the Magpies have beaten Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United in recent weeks.
The most impressive thing about Newcastle is their discipline without the ball, something that starts from the forwards.
Pardew has played either a 4-4-2 with Loic Remy and Shola Ameobi up front, or a 4-4-1-1 with Yohan Cabaye supporting Remy. Either way, Newcastle’s two advanced players don’t switch off when possession is lost, and instead attempt to prevent the opposition centre backs playing passes into the midfield.
When attacking, Remy is a clear threat with his lightning pace in behind the defence - he makes intelligent runs into the channels.
"When attacking, Remy is a clear threat with his lightning pace in behind the defence"
Arsenal must also be particularly wary of Newcastle’s long-range shooting - 58 per cent of their attempts at goal are from outside the box, the highest figure in the league. Cabaye is the most dangerous player in this respect, and is capable of scoring from both open play and set-pieces.
In midfield, either Cabaye or Vurnon Anita will play alongside Cheick Tiote. Newcastle are extremely feisty in this zone, with all three midfielders capable of strong tackles.
They’re also helped by the narrowness of the energetic Moussa Sissoko on the right, although he can switch flanks with Yoann Gouffran, more of a natural dribbler in wide positions.
Newcastle’s full backs have been particularly crucial in recent weeks, especially in an attacking sense.
In the 1-0 win at Old Trafford, for example, right-back Mathieu Debuchy had two of Newcastle’s best chances with well-timed runs to the far post, while left-back Davide Santon was the game’s most prolific dribbler, continually driving forward on the ball.
At the back, captain Fabricio Coloccini is the more famous centre back, but the underrated Mike Williamson might be a better defender. He’s strong in the air, anticipates danger intelligently and makes very few mistakes.
Tim Krul is a very agile goalkeeper and excellent in one-on-one situations - despite conceding seven against Arsenal this time last season.
NEIL CAMERON, NEWCASTLE EVENING CHRONICLE
Consistency in performance and consistency in selection - that's been the main reason behind Newcastle's recent fine form. Unlike last season, their best players have stayed fit and it really has told. I'm surprised at how high they are in the table but their performances have merited it.
You can't see past Yohan Cabaye as Newcastle's main man. He's scoring goals and making goals. Loic Remy has been a revelation as well and is pretty lethal in front of goal. Yoan Gouffran has also chipped in with seven goals this season. Mike Williamson also deserves a mention because he was a fourth choice centre half last season but has come in and been terrific this campaign.
"I'm expecting a brilliant game on Sunday and St. James' Park will be absolutely jumping"
I think Alan Pardew will adopt a similar approach against Arsenal to the win over Manchester United at Old Trafford and flood the midfield with five players. He won't drop Vurmon Anita because his ball retention is so good and that will be important. I expect Cheick Tiote to come back into the side after being suspended for the win over Stoke City, he's been outstanding in the holding role this season. I think Remy will play up front on his own and he's actually very good playing as a lone striker because he works the whole of the opposition back four very well.
I'm expecting a brilliant game on Sunday and St. James' Park will be absolutely jumping - it's arguably the biggest game of Pardew's three years at the club. The reason I say that is because everyone is very excited about how this season can turn out and if Newcastle can beat the Gunners on Sunday then I think we have to start talking about them as genuine top-four contenders.
I think this game is the big test, the win at Old Trafford was great but this is probably the best Arsenal team there's been for a few years. If Newcastle can get a result, it will be massive for Pardew and the whole club.
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