26 November 2021

Resistable Force, Meet Movable Object.

Newcastle come to the Emirates on a positively Mancunian run of form (the red kind, not the blue), having lost three of their last six, and they've joined the cool clubs' club of manager sackings. Whether new manager Eddie Howe can convince Toon to stop shipping goals like they're promotional giveaways at a charity auction will be one of the questions of the day. Key to Howe's strategy, surely, will be to let Arsenal be Arsenal, which is to say, "continue being about as toothless going forward as an octogenarian former boxer." Only six clubs have scored fewer goals than we have. To have still managed to take 20 points while scoring just 13 goals in 12 matches is a strange kind of wizardry. No club has conceded more goals than Newcastle. Watching this match could end up like an episode of the Keystone Kops.

Still, one should be careful when cracking wise about a squad that has outscored one's own. Newcastle have shown, at least on occasion, that they can find the back of the net. They've failed to score in just two matches, and they did put three past Brentford (who themselves had only conceded 14 goals in 11 matches themselves). With Howe in charge, we'll likely see a Toon side that's more committed to getting up the pitch and attacking, which at least offer something resembling tactics upgraded from Steve Bruce's philosophy of "put the best lads you have out there and see what they do". Howe's side should have a harder time than Liverpool did in breaking us down, provided that Arteta doesn't rile up the away fans by getting into a shouting match with Howe. Newcastle don't have anyone quite as good at sh*thousery as Sadio Mane, so maybe we'll be safe this week.

A more-adventurous Newcastle might end up more-dangerous going forward, but they'll also risk being more-porous at the back. They've conceded three goals or more on five occasions and have kept a grand total of zero clean sheets. Howe might fancy the return to fitness of keeper Martin D├║bravka after Karl Darlow's struggles against, well, everyone he's faced. Whoever's between the sticks will probably have a long afternoon. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in particular seems to relish this fixture, having scored in each of his last five outings against Newcastle on his way to six goals and three assists in eight appearances against the Magpies. If he can deliver more of the same on Saturday, that would go a long way to taking all three and perhaps giving the man a confidence boost going forward.

If not, we can look to Emile Smith-Rowe, who has a chance to score in three consecutive home matches for the first time since Ian Wright did so way back in 1997, before the Smith was even born. I'm putting my money on both he and Aubameyang finding the back of the net in a 3-1 win. Your predictions below the fold...

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