Arsenal end a mixed 2012 at the Emirates Stadium by hosting a Newcastle United side whose fortunes have ebbed and flowed to almost the same extent. Both sides enjoyed storming ends to last season’s Premier League campaign but the new season has brought more bad news than good.
The Gunners at least appear to be on the right track again, moving up to seventh in the table off the back of three straight league wins, and are now only three points adrift of Tottenham Hotspur in fourth. But, as has been the case for Arsene Wenger since August, Arsenal are only ever a handful of results away from a crisis, with the manager coming in for unprecedented criticism from a section of the club’s supporters.
Alan Pardew signed an eight-year contract earlier in the season as the Newcastle board showed a previously unheard of level of support in the former Southampton manager, but results have been disappointing in the extreme. With key players missing for long spells through injury and the pairing of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse failing to click, Newcastle are looking nervously over their shoulder at the relegation zone.
Arsenal have Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky back in training after both were struck down with illness, but the visit of Newcastle has come too soon for Abou Diaby and Andre Santos, both of whom will resume training next week.
Newcastle are without up to eight players through injury, including new casualties Vurnon Anita and Jonas Gutierrez, while Hatem Ben Arfa and Steven Taylor are not expected to return in time to be considered.