Newcastle United vs Arsenal: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle lists three players who can impact the outcome of the clash between Newcastle United and Arsenal on Saturday.

Arsenal’s recent resurgence has seen them improve their record against the top six, which had severely regressed since their move to the Emirates. Under Mikel Arteta, they have significantly improved their record against Manchester United, Chelsea, and Tottenham. Arsenal have also banished their Manchester City hoodoo by soundly beating them, and Newcastle United will present the next challenge.

Newcastle United are one team the Gunners have a formidable record against, losing only twice in their last ten trips to St. James’ Park. They have kept a clean sheet in nine of their previous 10 visits here. It shows Arsenal’s dominance over the years. But it has more to do with the Magpies struggling during that period.

Despite the controversial nature of their current owners, Newcastle United are steadily becoming a force to reckon with, and Eddie Howe has played a massive part. They are no longer the poorly run club under former owner Mike Ashley and are now one of the most formidable football organisations in the country.

Newcastle United did not rush towards splashing their way to success. Instead, under the steady management of Howe and the direction of Dan Ashworth, the Magpies have acquired wisely and built a decent squad that proved good enough to finish in the top four at the first time of asking.

Their quest to perform better got off to a flying start this season. But things have slowed down in phases, which threatened to derail their top-four chase. More importantly, Newcastle United have struggled to beat any of their top-six opponents this season, barring Aston Villa.

Another defeat could fuel an unwanted narrative, which could help build a perception of Howe and the club. They can change that with a win over Arsenal, who, despite their midweek loss to West Ham United, come here in a formidable run of form.

It is pretty baffling that Arsenal have been criticised for ‘not playing well’ this season. Pundits and transfer experts have constantly called for Mikel Arteta to sign a new ‘striker’. For the record, they are currently one of the two unbeaten Premier League sides and have scored the third most goals in the division.

One thing is clear: Arsenal are not playing to their full potential. But if this side can remain unbeaten after ten games, when they have already played the Manchester clubs, Tottenham and Chelsea, it seems pretty ridiculous what they can achieve when they hit top gear.

Coming into this vital clash at St. James’ Park, Arsenal will arrive with a fresh perspective, having taken their revenge for the decisive loss here in the 2021/22 season. For Arteta, it is all about finding their form and commanding another significant result to fuel their title dreams.

With both teams blessed with many decisive players in their squads, we have managed to single out three who can swing the outcome of this tie. Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka from Arsenal will hope to find their best form, while Kieran Trippier will aim to play a telling role in dictating Newcastle’s attack once again.

Kieran Trippier

The home side continues to rely on the expertise of Trippier a lot more than Eddie Howe would have expected them to. But the England international remains one of the formidable stars in that side. The right-back already has six assists to his name, and once again, the attackers will continue to look up to him to provide the ammunition.

Per our prediction, Mikel Arteta will look to contain the threat posed by Tripper by bringing in Takehiro Tomiyasu at left-back. The trick has worked before a few times. But the Japanese international is steadily hitting top form with recent performances.

Hence, Trippier may have to adapt his game to a different level, as not only has he got to beat Tomiyasu to create meaningful chances, but he must also find ways to contain Gabriel Martinelli on the wing. If the right-back can get beyond those hurdles and still play his game, he can surely swing the result in Newcastle’s favour.

However, it is a big ask from the player, as Howe will have recognised the need to support Trippier properly in his quest to find spaces and create chances. In this aspect, Sean Longstaff must play a significant role, as must Miguel Almiron further down the pitch.

Martin Odegaard

With the many critics Odegaard has accumulated during the last few weeks, Arteta’s comments about his captain carrying an injury may have pushed them a little back. The Norwegian playmaker may have returned in a cameo role against West Ham in midweek after missing last weekend’s game against Sheffield United.

After a stellar start to the season, many were comparing Odegaard as one of the top three players in the league. Still, those predictions have quickly evaporated with his dismal displays since. The Gunners skipper will want to prove many critics wrong with a stellar performance.

One thing that made Arsenal lethal in the attack last season was the partnership between him and Saka. That aspect, too, has seen many tactical changes. It is that one area that Arteta and Odegaard have to make work to stitch the attack together and become a more cohesive unit.

For Odegaard, he must reflect on the performance here last season and take inspiration from it. He must look for spaces to exploit that Newcastle backline and create something for Arsenal’s lethal attackers up front, especially Saka.

Bukayo Saka

Saka has quietly gone about having a productive start to the season. But not everything has been smooth for the England international. The tremendous amount of games he has played in recent years may have affected his fitness.

Arsenal fans have seen the way he has struggled in recent weeks with niggling problems, and he deserves breakout performances this season. Arteta will hope it comes at St. James’ Park, with the manager set to rely on Saka to elevate his side’s attacking game.

Tactically, Saka has taken on plenty of responsibility this season, probably due to some changes to Odegaard’s game. The latter has visibly resorted to taking more shots than creating chances. However, Saka has shown he can change the game’s outcome with one decisive action.

Saka must also find a way past the defensively strong Dan Burn while lending a supporting hand to Ben White further behind. Arsenal’s cohesive structure will allow the winger to find more joy on that flank, and he is one of the candidates to play a pivotal role in this massive clash.

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