As the rest of the Premier League returns from the winter break to complete this elongated round of matches, here’s everything you need to know about this weekend’s action.
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THE WEEKEND’S BIG QUESTIONS
Do Arsenal need a win to show they’re progressing?
You can see what Mikel Arteta is trying to do. There are patterns, ways Arsenal are moving the ball, methods of creating space through intelligent runs and positioning, little bursts of verve and spark that weren’t there before.
The trouble is, Arteta has been in charge for seven league games now and has only won one of them. Last time out they were particularly fortunate to get away with a 0-0 draw at Burnley, with the Clarets missing a series of clear chances and at times Arsenal were clinging on. At points they looked dominant themselves too, but that’s their problem: they’re producing moments of excellence but aren’t managing to string them together enough to get a victory.
At this stage Arsenal are basically all theory and no practice. Conceptually, things are progressing, but actually — in terms of cold, hard results — they’re not doing much better than when Unai Emery was in charge. Arsenal, in 10th place and still with an outside chance of qualifying for Europe through the league, have won the same number of games as the hapless West Ham.
“At the moment we are far from it but there are a lot of games to play,” Arteta said this week, about the prospects of sneaking into the top four. “It is very tight. Everybody is giving points away. It will depend on us. If we are able to put three or four wins in a row, we will be much closer.”
Their game against Newcastle on Sunday might be the time to try something slightly different, and leave Mesut Ozil out of the team. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is indispensable on the left, Gabriel Martinelli…