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Arsenal V Newcastle at Emirates Stadium : Match Preview
Updated published : 28 Dec 2012 16:38:29
Arsenal V Newcastle - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.
Gunners pair back in action
Striker Olivier Giroud and midfielder Tomas Rosicky have both recovered from illness and are available for Arsenal's home game against Newcastle.
Defender Andre Santos (stomach muscle) and midfielder Abou Diaby (thigh) are expected to return to training next week.
Back-up goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is out with a foot injury.
Despite a recent improvement, boss Arsene Wenger acknowledged his team have not been up to scratch and has promised an improvement for the remainder of the season.
"We will (do better in the second half of the season)," Wenger said.
"We are behind our schedule and we have to make up the points we miss at the moment.
"We rebuilt the team at the start of the season. Overall what is important for us is to improve the quality of our displays and focus just on that. Points will come."
Wenger has the rare luxury of an almost fully-fit squad to choose from.
"This is the first time since I've been here that we go into New Year's Day without any injuries," he said.
"Santos and Diaby are coming back into the group on Monday so apart from Lukasz Fabianski, nobody is injured."
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will head into the new year ruing the month which spoiled 2012 for him.
Much of the last 12 months has proved a thrilling adventure for the 51-year-old, who guided the club to a top-five Barclays Premier League finish at the end of last season and back into European football for the first time in five years.
Despite the frustrations of a difficult summer transfer window and an indifferent start to the new campaign, Pardew was relatively happy with his lot until November came around.
In the space of 17 days, the Magpies lost to West Ham and Swansea at home and Southampton and Stoke on the road, and they reached the season's halfway point on Boxing Day with an agonising 4-3 Boxing Day defeat at Manchester United, meaning they have lost seven of their last nine league games.
Asked if he would be glad to see the back of the first half of the season, Pardew, who today found himself the target of an astonishing rant from United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson, said: "Yes, I will be.
"You take November out of the calendar year and you have to say what a bloody great year we had.
"But unfortunately November soured it and it's put us in a tricky position for this first half of the season.
"If we had picked up six points and been sitting on 26 with fourth place at 33, we would have been all right.
"We are really six points short of actually doing very well with the squad we have had.
"But we mustn't take our eye off it and think it's been okay or it's acceptable. It isn't and we have got to do better."
Pardew faces a fresh selection headache.
Midfielder Cheick Tiote returns from a one-match ban, but counterpart Vurnon Anita is out with an ankle injury sustained in the 4-3 defeat at Manchester United, while central defender Mike Williamson is suspended after collecting his fifth booking of the season at Old Trafford.
Jonas Gutierrez (knee) has joined fellow midfielders Yohan Cabaye (groin) and Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring) as well as central defender Steven Taylor (also hamstring) on the sidelines, while full-back Ryan Taylor and midfielders Dan Gosling and Haris Vuckic (all knee) are still missing.