Preview: Newcastle Utd v Arsenal
07:32 20 March 2015
Newcastle’s season appears to have been tailing off into mid-table obscurity for some time and they are currently 10 points clear of the relegation zone but 15 short of European qualification.
John Carver, who took over the manager’s chair in January after Alan Pardew’s departure to Crystal Palace, picked up his first victory later that month when the Magpies triumphed 3-0 at Hull.
However, Carver’s side have won just once since then, scraping home 1-0 against relegation-threatened Aston Villa – which is also the only time they have found the net in their last four games.
The player who registered that goal, top scorer Papiss Cisse, is currently out with a knee injury, and Newcastle have struggled in his absence with a 1-0 loss at home to Manchester United and, last weekend, a 3-0 reverse at Everton.
Even before Cisse’s injury, the Magpies displayed an alarming tendency to let games slip towards the end, being pegged back to draw with Stoke and Palace in recent weeks.
With Fabricio Coloccini suspended following his red card at Everton, responsibility for holding the Magpies’ back line together will rest largely on the shoulders of his central defensive partner Mike Williamson.
However, Newcastle’s fortunes could mainly depend on the performance of Moussa Sissoko, the French international who is an effective box-to-box player and has formed a good understanding in midfield with Jack Colback.
With the likes of Sammy Ameobi and Youan Gouffran drawing a blank in front of goal, Carver could turn to Spanish youngster Ayoze Perez, who scored in the Geordies’ 4-1 defeat at Arsenal in December.
Arsenal controlled the game from start to finish when the sides met at the Emirates and Per Mertesacker’s header hit the crossbar before Olivier Giroud headed home an Alexis Sanchez cross to put them ahead after 15 minutes.
Santi Cazorla made it 2-0 after the break, finishing from a tight angle, and Hector Bellerin supplied the cross for Giroud to net his second goal – and the fourth in his last three games against Newcastle – soon afterwards.
Perez reduced the deficit with a header, but Cazorla wrapped up victory two minutes from time with an audacious chip from the penalty spot following a foul on Danny Welbeck.
Rather like West Ham, Newcastle have had little joy against the Gunners in recent times, losing the last six meetings between the sides – and their fate will be a similar one as Arsenal notch up a 2-0 away win.