Three important factors that could decide Arsenal v Newcastle

Arsenal are fresh off a heartbreaking Champions League defeat in Porto, a night where they were stifled and frustrated. So Gunners fans will not feel overjoyed that their next Premier League opponents are arguably England’s equivalent to them, Newcastle United.

When Newcastle came to the Emirates in January 2023, Eddie Howe’s side held on for a valiant point in a game that finished goalless. It was a night of frustration for the hosts despite still being eight points clear at the top of the Premier League at the time.

After the game, it was revealed the ball was in play for only 43 minutes and 17 seconds. Less than half of a full game of football. Newcastle’s aim was to antagonise the hosts, setting up in a 4-5-1 formation out of possession and nullifying Arsenal’s passing lanes. 

Newcastle came away happy with a point, and proved to be masters of the dark arts on that January evening. Over a year later, the two face off this weekend in north London, with Arsenal looking to respond after losing in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Here are three key factors that could decide the outcome when the two sides meet on Saturday night…

The hybrid Havertz role

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Kai Havertz has really started to find his mojo in recent games. His role in the Arsenal team at present is a mixture between a false nine and an advanced number eight, often interchanging with Leandro Trossard in the central striker position and venturing forward to join the attack to provide an extra body in the box when balls come in. 

His height and physique is something Newcastle defenders must be wary of and could be key to matching the physicality Newcastle have to offer. He can provide an option when going long for David Raya if Newcastle put the Gunners back line under pressure when playing out, acting as a base to build attacks from. And his improved form in front of goal of late provides an Arsenal side with another goalscoring threat in the absence of Gabriel Jesus, should he be unable to play again. Whether Havertz is on form could be key to whether Arsenal come out on top.

The midfield battle 

It is likely that both teams will line-up with a midfield three. That being said, Newcastle may drop into a five man midfield when Arsenal have possession. If Newcastle can crowd out the middle of the park, Arsenal will be forced to switch the ball to the wide areas, which is where Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn or Tino Livramento will have to nullify Arsenal’s wing threats.

Newcastle have plenty of tenacity in midfield through Bruno Guimaraes and Sean Longstaff, whose aggressive style of play is well suited to disrupting opposition game plans. But Arsenal have the advantage when it comes to quality. It will be intriguing to see whether that quality can shine through over Newcastle’s aggressiveness. Patience to wait for openings and the chance to provide that moment of quality will be key.

Saka’s threat may trigger a change 

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Dan Burn has been a great player for Newcastle at left-back, but he has not been at his best recently will be up against it if he faces Bukayo Saka. Saka’s burst of pace could be too much for Burn, with speed not his strong point. This may force Eddie Howe to make a change and start Livramento at left-back. The last time Livramento played 90 minutes was against Liverpool, where he dealt with Luis Diaz. The England U-21 star can play on both sides, but could be tasked with dealing with Saka. Newcastle will want to restrict Arsenal’s main threats as much as possible, and make life difficult for the hosts. Livramento looks better equipped than Burn when it comes to keeping Saka quieter than usual.

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