...By Malcolm Hemsworth for TDPel Media.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has no plans to use last season’s damaging defeat at Newcastle as motivation when he takes his Premier League title-chasers to St James’ Park on Sunday.
This term’s longtime leaders could be four points adrift of current table-toppers Manchester City, the reigning champions, by the time they kick-off at Newcastle, with the Magpies pushing for a third-place finish of their own.
The corresponding fixture last season came in the penultimate game of the campaign, with a 2-0 win for Newcastle effectively ending the Gunners’ hopes of Champions League qualification.
Arteta, as shown in the Amazon “All or Nothing: Arsenal” documentary, gave his players a huge dressing down after the game at St James’ Park but has no plans to use that match to inspire his side this weekend.
“It’s a very different game,” Arteta told a pre-match press conference on Friday.
“Different players, different game. We’re going to have to play better than last year that’s for sure because we know at home they’ve been really good.
“I don’t think there’s too much to motivate from there. There’s a lot of things that we have to do better than that day. The group of players and the way they’re playing there is different.”
The Spanish boss added there was still an outside chance defender William Saliba could feature in the final four games of the run-in despite his back injury ruling him out of the Newcastle game.
The France international has missed the last seven games as Arsenal have faltered in pursuit of the title following a run of one win in five.
The Gunners have conceded in each of the games he has missed with a back problem.
Arteta said last week Saliba’s recovery was taking longer than expected.
“Not a lot of progress,” he said Friday when asked for an update on Saliba’s fitness.
“He’s feeling better every day but he’s not been able to have any activity around the first team so we don’t expect him to be with us (at Newcastle).
“It’s about the healing process; pain-wise and the things he can do off the pitch he’s in a good place, but we have to build that capacity with the right load so that he’s able to contribute to the team.”
Arteta, pressed on whether Arsenal should accept Saliba was out for the season, added: “We are not there yet because we’re always hopeful and the players are pushing to play. If that’s the case we’ll announce it, but hopefully not.”