Alan Pardew's Newcastle suffered a painful defeat at Manchester United and now meet a fresh Arsenal side who missed out on the Boxing Day action. Lee Dixon fancies an up-for-it home side to give The Emirates faithful a late Christmas present in the form of three Premier League points...
After missing out on the Boxing Day action and then watching their rivals for a top-four slot all land victories, Arsenal must get out of the blocks fast at home to Newcastle in the late Saturday game.
All but two games of an entire Premier League weekend will have been played by the time they kick-off at The Emirates and a quick start could be key to their chances.
That's the way we approached these Christmas matches in my playing days - hit our opponents hard, fast and early to get the job done as soon as possible. Can the current Gunners do the same? Well, they are not as consistent as sides of seasons past, but I think they can take advantage of a Newcastle outfit who suffered a heartbreaking defeat at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Alan Pardew's side took the lead three times against the league leaders but were consistently pegged back and the Reds did what they always do and scored the decisive goal of the match.
All that energy expended - both mental and physical - will have drained the visitors ahead of Saturday's trip to the capital and it's an undoubted advantage for Arsenal. I'm sure Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould will already be putting that idea in the players' minds.
But for all that every Arsenal fan wants to see the Gunners go at Newcastle and dominate, few would say they expect that to happen. The current Wenger side just do not have the consistency of old. Yes, Reading were destroyed, but a solitary Mikel Arteta penalty got them past Wigan, while it wasn't so long ago that Swansea left The Emirates with all three points and a clean sheet.
Positives come in the form of a defence that has found its form due, no doubt, to the presence of Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs who have all returned recently after absences. Clean sheets against Aston Villa, West Brom and Wigan in the last six matches are a sign that the rearguard is on the right tracks.
That, combined with the extra rest the home players will have enjoyed, is enough for me to get behind Arsenal, especially when we add in the Opta stat that Newcastle have won just one of the last 10 games against the Gunners, too.
Let's be bold and play a home win combined with a clean sheet at around 3.412/5 and also take a chance on another Arteta goal. It'll probably come from the penalty spot but in my days of taking them they tended to come in bunches and a price of around 5.04/1 provides a nice enough return.
The Betfair's Trader's View: Alan Thompson
As Lee says, Arsenal go into this game with the benefit of a week off, following the postponement of their Boxing Day home fixture against West Ham. While Newcastle come into this on the back of a tough but great effort at Old Trafford. While Arsenal are possibly the most inconsistent team in the league this season, they have won their last three in a row, scoring eight goals in the process. However, it should be said that this has been a spell of “easier” fixtures (WBA at home, Reading and Wigan away) for the Gunners. This run could just be papering over the cracks at Arsenal.
Newcastle’s record at the Emirates isn’t great, in their seven trips they have won only once and scored only three goals. They haven't won a game on the road this season, are yet to keep a clean sheet and concede around two goals per game. They are without Williamson who is suspended and Anita was stretchered off at Old Trafford so is doubtful.
It’s hard to see how Newcastle can get anything from this despite a very valiant effort at Old Trafford last time out. I will be backing Arsenal to win 2-0 @ 8.2, 2-1 @ 9.4 and also asking for a price of 2.0 on Over 2.5 Goals to get matched in-play.
The Tactical View: Michael Cox
This should be a comfortable victory for Arsenal – they’ve got the benefit of significant extra rest compared to Newcastle, while Alan Pardew is without a number of options in the centre of midfield. If Arsenal play anything close to their best, I think they’ll be out of sight before half-time, and I’ll back Arsenal at around 2.2 in the ‘Newcastle +1’ market .