Leadership (Abuja)

29 December 2012

Nigeria: New Year Fever - Arsenal, Newcastle Set for Titanic Clash

Today will see the last round of English Premier League fixtures for 2012. Arsenal which was aiming to make it to the top four before the year runs out will come up against Newcastle. The Gunners had their Boxing day clash against West Ham postponed due to threatened tube strike, while Newcastle went down to Manchester United in a thrilling encounter at the Old Trafford.

Newcastle is a team which still gives Arsenal supporters the shiver, reminding them of last season when Arsene Wenger's squad romped into a 4-0 lead at St. James' Park, only for the gunners to bounce back to 4-4 at the end of 90 minutes. The Alan Pardew's side went down to leaders, Manchester United in a midweek clash and the result has thrown more spinners into Gunners' camp. Though recent encounters between the two sides haven't been goal-packed, today's meet between them will be an intriguing contest.

Arsenal's three successive league victories leave them well placed in the league table after a difficult December. The club now sits 7th on the table with a game in hand and will look to maintain its form to stay within touching distance of the leaders.

Their last performance was not of vintage quality but one which demonstrated resilience when under pressure for large parts of the game. Mikel Arteta's winning goal was the result of a challenge on Theo Walcott which gifted Arsenal a penalty. Arsene Wenger will know they need to start creating more chances on a regular basis.

Definitely this will be a tough clash for Arsene Wenger's team as Newcastle needs the points to avoid being dropped into relegation zone going into the New Year. They're not in a good run of form and will want to prove themselves here. For all their inconsistency this season, they have managed to win half of their eight home matches, drawing two and losing two.

Arsenal has surprisingly kept things neat at the back for most of its matches this season, boasting the fourth-best defensive record in the league. Santi Cazorla is in fine form for the Gunners, creating and scoring goals whilst Theo Walcott has been given the opportunity by Arsene Wenger to play as a centre-forward and the English international will be looking to prove his worth.

Newcastle on the other hand, last weekend managed to earn the vital three points at home against QPR. The Magpies were sitting in the 14th spot in the league table before the midweek trip to Old Trafford in what has been a disappointing season so far for a side that showed much promise last season and finished fifth.

The club is yet to win on the road this season and a win at the Emirates will take an uncharacteristic performance. Striker Demba Ba has been clinical for the Magpies this season with 11 league goals and is just two goals behind the leading scorer Michu.

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