A massive game for both Arsenal and Newcastle United on Saturday.
Both clubs had tough starts to the season, with Arsenal losing to Chelsea and Manchester City in their first two games, before managing wins against strugglers Cardiff and West Ham.
Newcastle have also lost to Chelsea and Man City this season, as well as Tottenham.
At Cardiff, Arsenal managed a late winner in their last Premier League match, whilst Kenedy’s poor penalty failed to give Newcastle a last minute win in Wales when they played Cardiff, such small margins.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined Arsenal for £60m and the star striker quickly showed his quality with 10 goals in only 12 Premier League starts. He didn’t score at St James Park in April but still looked a class act.
Arsenal have struggled this season overall but still managed eight goals in their last three games, a warning for Newcastle.
Aubameyang scored his first of the season at Cardiff and has started all four PL matches, as Unai Emery makes him first choice.
Hopes were raised for Newcastle United when the striker was sent home early by Gabon from international duty, with rumours of an injury.
However, now the Gabon FA have released an official statement making clear that the Arsenal striker and Southampton’s Mario Lemina were allowed to travel back to the UK early not because of injury, but to give them extra time to prepare for Premier League action this weekend.
They missed a 1-0 defeat to Zambia on Tuesday.
In contrast, two key players for Newcastle only finished their international duty in the early hours of Wednesday morning UK time. Salomon Rondon scoring twice in a 2-0 victory for Venezuela away at Panama, the game not ending until around 4am on Wednesday morning UK time.
Whilst Rafa Benitez can’t have been that impressed that DeAndre Yedlin wasn’t allowed back early, seen as the USA 1-0 friendly win over Mexico saw Yedlin get only six minutes as a late sub in a game that finished around 3.30am (UK time) in Nashville.
Meanwhile injury doubts on Arsenal’s £30m 22 year old midfielder signing Lucas Torreira have lifted. He played on Saturday as Uruguay hammered Mexico 4-1 and was pictured with ice on his knee after being subbed at half-time.
However, after travelling back to the UK, the midfielder has been seen training as normal with the Arsenal first team after his scare.
Newcastle United can normally rely on having an advantage over the top six clubs when playing after an international break but I’m not so sure this time.
Rafa Benitez often prefers to include players he has been able to work with in the build up but here’s hoping we don’t see Joselu playing instead of Rondon on Saturday, as well as nobody but Yedlin at right-back – Newcastle having absolutely no quality cover in either position.
Gabon FA Statement:
“Gabon coach Antonio Camacho will also have to work without some key players including (Arsenal striker) Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and (Southampton’s) Mario Lemina.
“They have been made available to their respective clubs, and Serge Martinsson Ngouali was injured in the knee at training,”