March 19, 2015

Arsenal and Newcastle United are set to clash on Saturday at St James' Park, with both sides hoping to take three points following scoreless draws last week.

Arsenal were upset to settle for their point at the Emirates against Liverpool after it appeared a first-half goal from Aaron Ramsey was incorrectly denied on an offside call. Goalkeeper Petr Cech rebounded well from his lackluster opening-week performance against West Ham United to deny Liverpool on several occasions with spectacular saves, most notably on Christian Benteke from point-blank range and getting a hand on an effort by Philippe Coutinho to help it deflect off the woodwork.

Arsenal dominated the second half, putting four shots on target, and kept nearly 60 percent of possession for the match, but the Gunners were unable find a breakthrough goal.

With four points from their first three matches, Arsenal (1-1-1) are off to their worst Premier League start since 2011, when they collected one point from their opening three league fixtures.

The Gunners were remarkably inefficient in the final third against Liverpool, a trend that has developed for Arsene Wenger's club early in the campaign. Through their first three matches, Arsenal have attempted a league-high 61 shots but scored only two goals.

While the Gunners have been wasteful in attack, they have conversely been quite disciplined in defence, having been booked just three times while committing 26 fouls, third-fewest in the Premier League. The north London outfit also has four of the top 12 players in completed passes - Santi Cazorla (1), Mesut Ozil (4), Ramsey (9), Nacho Monreal (12).

"We want to do well at Newcastle but it's always very, very, very tight and very committed there because the crowd is always behind their team," Wenger said. "They have just come out from a good result at Manchester United so it's important that we prepare well and we give absolutely everything to win this game before the break."

Arsenal also learned their Champions League path Thursday, being grouped with German champions Bayern Munich, Greek side Olympiakos and Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb. The Gunners were eliminated by Bayern in the knockout rounds in both 2013 and 2014.

Newcastle United (0-2-1) enter this clash with confidence after stifling Manchester United last week at Old Trafford in a 0-0 draw. The Magpies eased past League Two side Northampton Town 4-1 in a League Cup match Tuesday thanks to goals from Florian Thauvin, Siem de Jong, Daryl Janmaat and Mike Williamson.

Newcastle are trying to avoid a second consecutive slow start after going winless in their first seven matches last season.

The club will need to be more effective in the attacking half if they expect to take three points. Where Arsenal have been inefficient in the final third, Newcastle have been lacking - they've attempted a league-low 20 shots, with just six on frame.

On the personnel front, Newcastle midfielder Moussa Sissoko could return from a groin injury, and Janmaat is available after serving a ban last week. Arsenal could again be without first-choice centrebacks Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, both of whom did not play against Liverpool, while midfielder Jack Wilshere and forward Danny Welbeck remain out with injuries.

The Gunners have won seven straight league matches between the teams by a combined 20-5 scoreline and are unbeaten in their last nine versus Newcastle. Olivier Giroud has proven a bogeyman for the Magpies, connecting for braces in both matches last season and getting the one at St. James' in a span of four minutes in Arsenal's 2-1 victory.

The French striker has eight goals in six lifetime matches against Newcastle.

"I am not going to say because then there are no more secrets, I need to keep them for me," Giroud told Arsenal Player about his success versus Newcastle. "It is maybe luck or I don't know, but I really want to keep scoring against them and help the team win the three points."

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