Head coach Steve McClaren has told Newcastle to get physical with Arsenal as he attempts to kick-start the club’s season once again.
The Magpies have slipped back into the relegation zone after taking just a single point from festive fixtures against Aston Villa, Everton and West Brom and in the circumstances, Saturday’s trip to the Emirates Stadium hardly represents the most inviting start to 2016.
Arsenal’s return to prominence has been due in part to the influence of Germany international Mesut Ozil and Newcastle will have to come up with a plan to stop the main creative force at Arsene Wenger’s disposal if they are to prosper in north London.
McClaren said: “It is about collective organisation and discipline – and a certain amount of aggression will be required.
“We have come across many, many good players in every team. Ozil is just another one of them which we will have to contend with. But they have others – [Olivier] Giroud is scoring goals left, right and centre, [Theo] Walcott is coming into form, [Aaron] Ramsey is a very good midfield player.
“Despite what they are missing, they have still got quality.”
McClaren has been hugely impressed with the Gunners this season, particularly in the 3-0 win at Olympiacos on December 9 which secured their Champions League passage.
He said: “They have had injuries, but are still maintaining their form. It was as near as perfect a performance against Olympiacos as I have seen from a team for many years. What a result and performance under so much pressure.
“Favourites for the title? Definitely, at this stage – but it is only half-time.”
Few around St James’ Park will need reminding of the Magpies’ trip to the Emirates on December 29, 2012 when they returned on the wrong end of a remarkable 7-3 scoreline with Walcott plundering a hat-trick and Giroud claiming a double.
Newcastle’s current fragility is a cause for concern, but McClaren remains confident that when they are at their best, they can give anyone a game.
He said: “We know on any given day we can beat anybody in this league. But we also know that on any given day we can lose.”