THE stats don't paint a particularly positive picture for Newcastle United ahead of tonight's game at Arsenal.

In the last five Premier League games, the Gunners have hammered in 21 goals and conceded just two. Newcastle's backline will undoubtedly be kept busy and if the Magpies - who have leaked 16 goals in their last six outings - defend like they have done of late, there's little chance of shutting out Mikel Arteta's side, as they did in this fixture last season.

"You would think there's going to be goals in the game but football works in strange ways," said head coach Eddie Howe.

"We can only focus on us. We need to defend much better than we have done in recent weeks. We're capable of doing that and have the players to do it but we need to deliver."

Arsenal will be desperate to bounce back after their midweek Champions League setback but Arteta's side may well be a fuelled by another incentive, the feeling of injustice after their defeat at St James' Park earlier this season.

The decision to allow Anthony Gordon's winner to stand that day was described as "embarrassing" and a "disgrace" by Arteta and tempers flared on the touchline - though Howe was keen to play down the incident.

“I don’t think squared up is quite the way I saw it," he said.

"That is painting a different image to the one I remember. Mikel is a very passionate guy. He will defend his team. I am the same. I will defend my team. I like to think there is a lot of mutual respect between us both.

"The last game made headlines, that is the best way of putting it for what happened with the goal and everything after.

"We just look at it as another opponent, we prepare the same way and analyse the opponent very forensically to try and find the best way to get a positive result. Everything else is created outside of that and I'm sure for Arsenal it's the same."


Howe previously said Newcastle's primary focus is on competing rather than being liked and the Magpies undoubtedly got under the skin of opponents last term. But Howe admits it's been difficult to do that again this season.

"I think you could say that because we haven't been as competitive results-wise," he said.

"So of course if you're not winning games and taking points off teams, I think naturally you could look at it and go, 'They're not getting under the skin of them in the way they used to'.

"Game-management itself has become more difficult to do because of the rules, which I think has been a good thing for the Premier League. We're seeing quicker games, less stoppages in play, apart from VAR really. So we're seeing a much more fast-paced game. There's probably more to your comments than just a simple 'yes' or 'no'."