The Big Match

Gunners may have a blast at Newcastle

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey looks holding on to the goal net.
Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey looks holding on to the goal net.PHOTO: REUTERS

Wenger's men can take inspiration from 18 goals scored in last six ties against Magpies

Some 30 minutes after Monday's 0-0 stalemate against Liverpool, Arsenal Wenger insisted: "We play to score goals." His problem so far has been that the Gunners have not been able to bulge the net.

Without approaching their scintillating best, they have already recorded 61 attempts, the most in the English Premier League so far.

But they have found the net only twice, the joint least. So have Newcastle. It is early days but two clubs with a tradition of offering entertainment find themselves with three fewer goals than promoted Norwich and five behind Leicester in the scoring stakes.

Arsenal's drought is not for lack of trying. Only Philippe Coutinho and Memphis Depay have had more shots than Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud.

However, though the Chilean's header led to a Damien Delaney own goal, the Frenchman's volley at Crystal Palace makes him Arsenal's sole scorer.

Perhaps their luck will change soon. Yet, if anything prompts the Gunners to return to the goal trail, it may be the sight of Newcastle.

They have scored 18 times in their last six games against the Magpies.

Giroud did not even start one of those matches and, yet, has scored eight himself.

But those Gunners fans with longer memories will recall a 2011 trip to St James' Park when their team went 4-0 up.

Still, Newcastle earned a point, with Cheik Tiote scoring what remains his only goal for the club.

That was one incarnation of Newcastle. Then, they were the specialists in the unpredictable.

When Arsenal last beat them, 2-1 in March, it was the third in a run of eight straight defeats. They were a club in freefall.

Now, while they have yet to register a win in a league game under new manager Steve McClaren, they are trying to consign such troubled times to the past.

Newcastle were determined and organised as they drew 0-0 against Manchester United last week.

They will require similar qualities again. While McClaren was permitted to spend almost £50 million (S$108 million) in the summer as owner Mike Ashley belatedly opened the chequebook, it is as important to restore the fractured relationship with fans by proving that they have a committed, cohesive unit.

While Wenger has been criticised for not signing a striker, Newcastle recruited Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was booked for a tackle 2.7 seconds into his debut for a reckless lunge.

The combustible Serb showed a different type of menace when he hit the bar at Old Trafford.

It should serve as a warning to Arsenal, whose first-choice centre-backs Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny may both be sidelined again.

Because, with their deputy Calum Chambers enduring a traumatic time, their sole clean sheet of the season, against Liverpool, owed more to Petr Cech and the woodwork than their defending.

One way or another, goals could be back on the agenda for both these clubs.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'GUNNERS MAY HAVE A BLAST AT NEWCASTLE'. Print Edition | Subscribe