Wenger ready for battle
Manager Arsene Wenger says Arsenal must prepare for a battle and forget about Newcastle's poor recent form ahead of Monday night's clash at the Emirates Stadium.
The Magpies have suffered five consecutive defeats to slip down towards mid-table and put scrutiny on the position of manager Alan Pardew, who will return to the dugout following a lengthy touchline ban.
By contrast, Arsenal have secured back-to-back defeats following their dramatic FA Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out win over Wigan at Wembley to take control of securing Champions League qualification ahead of Everton, who lost ground after defeat at Southampton on Saturday.
Wenger, though, urged against any sense of complacency.
"You know that Newcastle have quality, so of course we have to prepare like we will face a Premier League battle," the Arsenal manager said.
"The exciting thing in the Premier League is that everybody fights for every game and we have to prepare for that.
"We have come back [with] a better display in our offensive quality which brings confidence, so that is what we want to build on now."
Captain Thomas Vermaelen is set to be available again after sitting out the 3-0 win at Hull with a hamstring problem.
Midfielder Abou Diaby made a welcome return from a serious knee injury when he played for the under-21 side in midweek, but will not be rushed back after reporting a minor groin problem.
Newcastle looked odds-on to secure a top-half finish when they trounced Stoke 5-1 at St James' Park on Boxing Day, but the wheels have fallen off since.
They have lost their last five league games and 12 of the last 17 to claim a paltry return of 13 points from a possible 51. That record sent them into the weekend in ninth place, but only two points better off than the Potters in 10th.
Given their current form, the Magpies would appear to have little chance of stopping the rot at the Emirates Stadium, despite the return of Moussa Sissoko to the squad after injury.
Hatem Ben Arfa is fit too, but has found himself out of favour in recent weeks amid rumours of a bust-up with the manager.
However, Pardew is confident that his team can have a say in the shake-up at both ends of the table during what remains of a difficult campaign, with Cardiff and Liverpool also still to play.
Asked about the prospects for achieving Mike Ashley's goal, he said: "I hope we can get the results that we need.
"Maybe three, maybe four points will probably secure it, and we need to get those in three tough games.
"They have all got something on them. We can be a real hindrance to Arsenal and Liverpool, and Cardiff as well, so that's what we have to focus on, ourselves really."
In the short term, ending a depressing run of results and winning over critics will be the only aim, with the manager admitting they have simply not been good enough in recent weeks.
Pardew, who saw his team lose 2-1 to Swansea at the death last weekend, said: "We need a result, of course we do. Every game in the Premier League is very important, whether you are the Newcastle manager or the Arsenal manager.
"What I do know is for us, our recent run has not been good enough for our fans - they have made that very, very clear - and it certainly hasn't been good enough for me and my staff, and I include the players in that.
"They are desperate to get a win and I think a little bit of desperation last week cost us the game because what we did towards the end of the game was a sign of a team that hasn't won for a while.
"We just need to get it all right and, if we can get it all right, we can get a result, even at Arsenal."
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