Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas has backed Arsenal to beat Newcastle United on Sunday but expects Steve Bruce to play a negative brand of football to try and seal a result at the Emirates Stadium.
This weekend’s trip to North London will be Bruce’s 26th Premier League game in charge of the Magpies, and will be travelling south level on points with the Gunners with both sides sat in mid-table on 31 points.
Arsenal got the better of Newcastle in Bruce’s first match at the helm, but could easily have been beaten had we been able to muster more accurate finishing with our late chances and had Ainsley Maitland-Niles not intercepted Paul Dummett’s attempted pass to substitute Jetro Williams.
Since then, Newcastle have actually won more top-flight fixtures than Arsenal by eight to five, though four more defeats and a goal difference ten worse than the Gunners sees the club in the bottom half of the standings with Burnley sat in-between.
And Nicholas expects the win record will close to within one on Sunday, even if Bruce plans to play a negative brand of football to avoid suffering his 11th league defeat at the helm.
“Newcastle have been very good away from home under Steve Bruce,” Nicholas noted in his column for Sky Sports. “He will go to frustrate Arsenal and will look to counter-attack with Miguel Almiron, Allan Saint-Maximin and Joelinton, who has improved a lot.
What will the result be at Arsenal on Sunday?
“It will be a tough afternoon, but Arsenal seem to have some drive back. The negative could be waiting around for [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang and [Alexandre] Lacazette to kick back into form.
“Gabriel Martinelli has been in great form, but we need to start seeing more from Nicolas Pepe. The Gunners are not good enough to make the top four, but they must have a go at it. For that reason, they will be firing and up for this game in order to come away with the three points [in a 3-1 win].”
While Nicholas predicts Bruce playing negatively in North London, the boss has set the side out to play as such all season, given we have averaged the lowest overall possession figure (39.4%) among Europe’s top-five leagues heading into the weekend.
That figure even drops to 38% when on the road, per WhoScored data, where we tend to also average just 7.9 shots per game, complete 74.2% of our passes and attempt 9.3 dribbles.
In other Newcastle United news, Bruce is eying the signature of a 34-cap midfielder ahead of the summer market.