Arsenal host Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday, January 2 as the Gunners start the New Year in pole position after a brilliant end to 2015. The Gunners bounced back from a chastening Boxing Day evening against Southampton, where they were hammered 4-0, to beat Bournemouth 2-0 on the back of a mesmerising performance by Mesut Ozil.
Where to Watch
Kick-Off is set for 3pm GMT. Highlights of the game will be on BBC Match of the Day at 10:30pm GMT on BBC One.
Arsenal welcome the New Year on top of the table with a real sense around the stadium that this could be the year they could end their decade-long title drought. The Gunners are currently top of the table and Arsene Wenger will be hoping that they are able to continue the rest of the campaign with the same intensity.
Ozil has orchestrated everything that has transpired at the Emirates, with the German picking up his 16th assist and third goal of the campaign against Bournemouth. Eyes will be on the German's ability to break Thierry Henry's assist record, which currently stands at 20 for an entire season.
Wenger will also be keeping an eye out for their current crop of injured players, with Alexis Sanchez set to return against Sunderland after recovering from a hamstring injury. Six others are likely to be available from the beginning of next month.
Wenger will also be counting on Olivier Giroud to deliver the goods against Newcastle, against whom he has five headers on target, scoring with each one of them. Petr Cech will start the game as the most prolific goalkeeper in the history of the Premier League with 170 clean sheets.
Meanwhile, Newcastle are still struggling in the bottom three, currently two points behind Swansea City, who play Manchester United at Old Trafford on 2 January. The Magpies have had a stop-start campaign thus far, taking six points against the in-form Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, while managing only one of a possible nine against Everton, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion.
The reverse fixture between the two sides resulted in a 1-0 win for the Gunners at St James' Park, with an own goal by Fabricio Coloccini coming to the Gunners' rescue in a game in which they failed to take a single shot on target. This is the only game in the Gunners' league campaign that Ozil missed in the first half and Wenger will be hoping that the German can exert his influence and get the Gunners three much-needed points.
What Managers Say
Arsene Wenger: "[On Steve McClaren] He has only just joined the club. Newcastle is a very exciting project because it's a very big club and it's a fantastic and exciting job for a manager like Steve McClaren, but it is a long-term job. (Newcastle) has a huge potential and in six months it's impossible to transform a club of that stature into a club competing for the Premier League. Give him time. I know that patience is not the first quality in our society but, unfortunately to be successful, you need it."
Steve McClaren: "It is about collective organisation and discipline – and a certain amount of aggression will be required. We have come across many, many good players in every team. Özil is just another one of them which we will have to contend with. But they have others – [Olivier] Giroud is scoring goals left, right and centre, [Theo] Walcott is coming into form, [Aaron] Ramsey is a very good midfield player. Despite what they are missing, they have still got quality."
Betting Odds (888Sport)
- Arsenal Win: 5/18
- Draw: 21/4
- Newcastle WIn: 11/1
Possible XI: Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Monreal; Chambers, Ramsey; Campbell, Ozil, Walcott; Giroud
Possible XI: Darlow; Janmaat, Mbemba, Coloccini, Dummett; Sissoko, Tiote, Colback, Wijnaldum; Perez, Mitrovic