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MATCH PREVIEW: For Arsenal, Its the Very Definition of a Must Win Match


With their loss on Thursday, Arsenal’s chances at qualifying for Champions League took a significant hit. However, the chance remains firmly in their own hands with this match at St. James’ Park being the definition of a must win match if they have any hopes of playing in Europe’s elite competition.

What started off brightly Thursday turned into a horror show and the result saw Rob Holding suspended but some players continue to be lingering doubts for the match today. Its all very nerve wracking for a fan base who have been desperate for games to matter on a regular basis.

For all the gloom that followed the North London Derby, Arsenal and Arsenal supporters should be buoyed by the fact that the team has proven itself to be rather resilient.  There multiple points throughout the season when results began to make all doubt the squad’s progress only for the squad itself to show it better than previous results. The most recent, the form after the 3 losses to Palace, Brighton and Southampton, followed by emphatic wins to keep their top 4 hopes alive.

The opponent is not one to take lightly and they are much improved under new manager Eddie Howe. But the make up of the team is for the most part the same group that struggled against Arsenal earlier in the season. They were also ripped open in their last match against Manchester City.

Arteta as manager will have to do everything he can to get his tired, young team over the line.

About our Opponents

Newcastle look like a reinvigorated team since the takeover. Eddie Howe has done well to take the team and raise the level of chaos and directness – giving them the chance to create chances out of nowhere. This is done through some very hard pressure as well as one route offensive movement.

Setting up in a 433 initially, the team look to press high in a 424 before dropping into a 451 formation. In attack, they quickly look to keep the formation wide, while trying to attack with a maximum of 5 players, leaving the fullbacks to make late wide runs if the one route passing didn’t work.

In defense, Howe has instructed his team to press very high with 4 players, while the midfield and fullbacks man mark players, trying to either deny short passes into central areas or create turnovers. If the press is broken, Newcastle drop into a 451 formation, blocking passes into the 18 yard area. They do also tend to overload wide spaces, moving their entire formation to defend wide spaces first and foremost. While their defensive formation is somewhat sound, they do have a tendency to be slow to track back, leaving a lot of work for the central midfielders to track back and block passes. When in formation, they do vacate the opposite flank, which were abused heavily by Manchester City to sneak in a wide player into the box.

Newcastle’s 451 defending. There’s a wide gap to be exposed in behind the fullback

In attack, Newcastle will initially try to look for tall guy, Chris Wood, who then will look to release St Maxim into a position where he can run at defenders. The plan seems to be to get either into a crossing position, or getting across the box to shoot. Should this fail, Newcastle will try to move the ball diagonally and find a crossing opportunity on the opposite wing. Building up, Newcastle look to keep their fullbacks almost at the touchline, which will leave areas in the half-space open for vertical build up. While this does create numerous chances for crossing, it does also expose them to transitional play, which, in the end, can leave the team exhausted.

Offensive formation. Very wide formation with a single passing point in between the two wide areas.

When defending against Newcastle, Arsenal will have to find a way to deny Chris Wood and St Maximin the chance to link up. The easiest would be to track the run of St Maximin and try to defuse the situation quickly and slowing down the tempo. When defending deep, Arteta has to make sure the wingers track their fullbacks all the way back, to deny the chance to get an easy crossing opportunity. We should have the speed superiority, but that does not mean Arsenal has the privilege to let Chris Wood get a free head.

When attacking Newcastle, Arteta will need have to find ways to play out of Newcastle’s high press. There’s a need to punish the 424, which either could be from a offensive player dropping back, a fullback moving centrally or even trying to release wide players in behind the fullbacks. On all occasions the emphasis should be on moving the ball quickly up the pitch and getting the wide players into 1v1 situations. St Maximin has a knack for being lazy when tracking back, so it makes sense to focus first and foremost on getting Saka in behind. When attacking the final third, it makes sense to drag Newcastle into one half of the pitch and then release a wide player opposite.

This is a game that is winnable, but that does not make it certain. Arsenal have to respond quickly and force Newcastle to react to the game instead of transforming the game into a basketball match. Get an early goal and deny the one route football should be the first step.

What the Manager Says (courtesy

How lucky I am to have them, how they stand under any difficulty, how much they are looking forward to play on Monday, how excited they are about the challenge ahead, because we all know everything that we’ve been through throughout the season and how much we have to fight to be in this position.

The excitement that they’ve shown me every day. The way they’ve come in today with the energy that they were with today to play the game and very willing to go there and perform at the highest level.

Arsenal Record vs Opponent (League only)

53 P 33W 10L 10D (Premier League era)

Goals Scored (Season Average)

Arsenal (away): 1.44

Newcastle (home): 1.33

Goals Conceded (Season Average)

Arsenal (away): 1.61

Newcastle (home): 1.50

xG for per Match (via

Arsenal 1.23 (1.21 away)

Newcastle 1.23 (1.26 home)

Match Officials

Referee: Darren England
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Dan Robathan
Fourth official: Craig Pawson
VAR: Jarred Gillett
Assistant VAR: Nick Hopton.

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