Two challengers for the crown aim to boost their hopes of Premier League title glory on Tuesday night, as Arsenal take on Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners ended 2022 with a pulsating 4-2 success over Brighton & Hove Albion, while Eddie Howe’s side lost a bit of ground on the top two after being held to a goalless draw by Leeds United.
No team in Premier League history has lost the title after collecting 16 points from 43 games, and those in red and white are just starting to believe that little bit more by the week, as Mikel Arteta’s young guns continue to defy pre-season expectations.
Eddie Nketiah, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard were all on target at the Amex fortress against Brighton, who responded in kind through Kaoru Mitoma and Evan Ferguson in a nail-biting finale, where Mitoma had another goal ruled out for a marginal offside.
Arteta admitted that his side did little to stem the flow of Brighton’s eye-catching response, but a 14th top-flight win of the season – coupled with Manchester City dropping points against Everton – allowed the Gunners to enjoy their midnight celebrations seven points clear at the top of the table.
With the champions not in action until Thursday’s battle with Chelsea, Arsenal – who are the only Premier League team with a 100% home record still intact – could remarkably extend their lead into double figures on Tuesday night, thereby silencing a few more doubters of their title credentials.
While an astounding 10-game winning run on home soil is nothing to be scoffed at, only Nottingham Forest have failed to score against Arsenal at the Emirates during that hot streak, so a record-equalling 29th clean sheet against Newcastle is far from a guarantee.
Denied time and time again by the imperious Illan Meslier, Newcastle’s authority over Leeds United ultimately counted for very little at a rainy St James’ Park on New Year’s Eve, as the Whites travelled back to the West Midlands with a hard-earned point to their name.
It was not for the want of trying for Howe’s men, who could not find the breakthrough despite enjoying 59% possession and 16 shots on goal, but the mood around Newcastle on New Year’s Eve was undoubtedly still a cheerful one as they reflect on a year of monumental progress.
Victory over Leeds would have allowed Newcastle to move level on points with Man City, but the Magpies remain on the final podium spot entering 2023 – only two behind the reigning champions and nine adrift of Arsenal, both of whom have a game in hand – so the two teams on the Emirates turf could occupy first and second place if Howe’s side get the job done on Tuesday.
While there was a sense of missed opportunity on Saturday, Howe’s side have still posted just the one defeat in league action this term – even then Liverpool only scraped a 2-1 Anfield win right at the death – and they are unbeaten in their last 12 top-flight games since that August beating.
Arteta’s players received the hairdryer treatment after being outfought and outclassed in a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle at St James’ Park, but Arsenal have won each of their last 11 home games versus the Magpies in all tournaments and have certainly developed a newfound sense of resilience since May’s terrible trip to Tyneside.
The perennially-injured Takehiro Tomiyasu shook off his latest hamstring problem to come on as a second-half substitute at the Amex, leaving Arsenal with just two guaranteed absentees for this contest in Gabriel Jesus and Reiss Nelson.
Emile Smith Rowe has taken part in a few training sessions as he closes in on a return from groin surgery, but he will only make the bench at best here if he is passed fit, with Arteta likely to keep faith in his tried-and-tested starting XI despite the quick turnaround.
Nketiah continues to fill the boots of Jesus admirably and could record his 12th goal from his last 12 starts at the Emirates, despite only having 16 shots on target during that eyebrow-raising run.
With regard to Newcastle, none of Howe’s injured quintet should be able to return on Tuesday, with Alexander Isak, Jonjo Shelvey, Matt Targett, Emil Krafth and Paul Dummett all unavailable for the top-of-the-table clash.
The visiting manager could be tempted into a couple of changes either way, having given Chris Wood the nod from the off against Leeds, but Callum Wilson replaced the ex-Burnley man just after the hour mark and will expect a recall to the firing line.
Former Arsenal man Joe Willock will hope to receive a warm welcome back to the Emirates, but he could also be sacrificed for the returning Allan Saint-Maximin, who caused Tomiyasu a world of problems in May’s win over the Gunners.
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Xhaka, Partey; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Nketiah
Newcastle United possible starting lineup:
Pope; Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn; Longstaff, Guimaraes, Joelinton; Almiron, Wilson, Saint-Maximin