Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says that he expects Newcastle to “come at” his players after their confidence boost from pulling clear of relegation.
The Magpies seemed in disarray earlier in the season and were nosediving towards the Championship. After beating West Brom in early December, they picked up only two points from nine games. What’s more, their next win would come in late January, away to Everton. Since then, though, they have moved nine points clear of the bottom three.
Indeed, 11 points from eight games have helped their cause, including a last-minute equaliser against Liverpool last time out.
This weekend, meanwhile, they face an Arsenal side whose biggest focus is on reaching the Europa League final.
Nevertheless, Gunners boss Arteta is still preparing his players for a tough test against Steve Bruce’s men.
“Well I’m sure with the position they’re in, they’re going to come at us,” he told his pre-match press conference (via Football London).
“They’re a really organised team, they’ve been playing much better recently so it will be tough.
“With the amount of games that we are playing, every team has the capacity to make it difficult for you.”
The Gunners head into Sunday’s clash after losing 2-1 to Villarreal in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final.
In the Premier League, Arsenal sit 10th, but all roads still lead back to their continental ventures in the quest to feature in Europe next season.
Arteta said when asked if his priorities have shifted: “Well, the Premier League is the competition where it is not in our hands to achieve what we wanted to do, because there are other teams in front of us.
“The only thing we can control is our performances and results and this is our main focus.
“Then obviously, we know that the semi-final is the crucial moment of the season.”
Arteta buzzing Pepe providing for Arsenal
Winger Nicolas Pepe is one player who Arteta hopes can continue his fine form against Newcastle.
“I think he’s come a long way in the last few months,” the manager said of the Ivory Coast international.
“His work ethic has been phenomenal, he’s deciding many more games he’s doing what he can do in the final third in a much more consistent way.
“So I’m really happy with his performances and now he needs to continue like this.”