Saturday's teatime Premier League entertainment receives some Opta-aided bet suggestions from Christian Crowther...
Arsenal v Newcastle (Saturday, 17:30, ESPN)
Arsenal have won their last three Premier League games, the joint best current run in the division (along with Chelsea)
Despite the knives being sharpened once again at Arsenal this season, their careworn leader has typically found a way to turn results around as the year draws to a close. With a host of young British stars signing new contracts in recent weeks, including star man Jack Wilshere, the club has recovered some much needed feel-good factor and it is being felt on the pitch. Arsenal's summer signings are finally gelling nicely and Theo Walcott's central deployment has also paid dividends. Following an unexpected Boxing Day rest, the Gunners will have plenty in the tank and should prove too much for an injury-ravaged Newcastle side fresh from a demoralising defeat at Old Trafford. Arsenal have scored either side of the break in two of their last three league games.
Arsenal have made 11 errors leading directly to goals, more than any other side
Even though results have picked up in the Premier League, Arsenal still find themselves down in seventh as they enter 2013. As the italicised stat suggests, their defending and moreover individual decision making has not been at its sharpest at times this season. It is therefore unsurprisingly that the Gunners have only kept two clean sheets in their last seven games across all competitions. Mistakes at the back have been far more commonplace than any Arsenal fan would wish, even affecting the likes of the normally reliable Thomas Vermaelen, who has been caught out on occasion. We saw against Manchester United that Newcastle are a real threat on the break with the pace and power of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse so, with Arsenal likely to play high up the pitch, it could easily give rise to space in behind.
The Gunners have had a player sent off in three of their last four Premier League games against Newcastle
Whenever these sides have opposed each other in recent seasons, there has certainly been no shortage of drama or incident. Everyone remembers the famous 4-4 draw at St James' Park two seasons ago, when Cheick Tiote scored his wonder goal in the dying moments to complete a remarkable comeback. Furthermore, there seems to have been some needle built up between the two clubs as well. Even when goals were in short supply last season at St James' Park, Arsenal's Gervinho still managed to earn the Gunners a third straight red in this Premier League match up. Their last meeting came at the Emirates in March and, although there was no sending off that day, there were still five yellow cards before Vermaelen stole the points in the 90th minute.