Arsenal vs Newcastle United: the key battles at the Emirates ahead of Sunday's clash
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 01:  Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal scores his teams second goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United at The Emirates Stadium on April 1, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)

The two clubs were poles apart from each other in terms of expectations back in pre-season, but unfilled promises of top 4 and the return of exciting football failed to come to fruition for Sunday's hosts. 

Unai Emery had difficulty finding a consistent formation to best suit his players who arguably wouldn't have got near most Arsenal sides of the past.

Whilst results have picked up under new boss Mikel Arteta, you can't help but feel the project really will really take shape in the summer; when the Spaniard can have a summer-long transfer window and pre-season to implement his aims.

The opposing dug-out - which Arteta was linked with after Rafa Benitez' departure - have had issues of their own, though.

Being able to regularly create chances and not rely on their defenders to score goals has weighed heavily on Steve Bruce, but things as of now are healthy sitting on 31 points.

Key battles at the Emirates 

The defensive mode that the Magpies have adopted since September-time has attracted criticism from those on the sceptical side, but it has gotten them to being nine points from safety in February. 

So whilst they went more attacking in their narrow win at Oxford United in the FA Cup, the tried and tested 5-2-3 is likely to return.

In contrast, Arteta is still seeking the best formation for his side but it is more than likely to operate with four defenders in a more conventional 4-2-3-1. 

Lucas Torriera vs Nabil Bentaleb

Life under Arteta has been kind to the Uruguayan midfielder who turned 24 in the week.

Traditionally the deep-lying body in the middle of the park, it is the tenacity and ball retention that has impressed and with the ball at his feet, he is able to make his side tick.

His counterpart on Sunday afternoon is that of new-boy Nabil Bentaleb, of course ironically is formally of Tottenham Hotspur

It is true that the Algerian also sits deeper and plays a more protective role in front of Newcastle's back three/five, and he has a job in front of him to combat the possession that Arsenal will undoubtedly have.

Both hard-hitting tacklers, it will be intriguing to see how Bentaleb and Newcastle approach their opposite numbers in midfield, given they will be doing the bulk of their work without the ball. 

Gabriel Martinelli vs United back three

It's been a rapid rise to the top for Arsenal's 18-year-old Brazilian forward, with a mightily impressive ten goals in all competitions so far this season since his summer move.  

He has made the Arsenal first-team his own and done so with flair and confidence, boosting their attacking options which has misfired on occasions. 

Playing either just alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or out on the left-wing, he has shown glimpses and flashes of a potential world-class player, which were the thoughts of Paul Merson on Sky's 'Debate' anyhow. 

Newcastle's strengths have been their stable defensive three, and that has been no secret. 

A predicted combination on Sunday is likely to be Jamaal Lascelles, Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark and all three will have to be on their A-game to ensure the Magpies take anything at all from the game. 

Martinelli has showed his willingness to run direct and cause problems for defensive units this season, and his new manager will be hoping for the same. 

Hector Bellerin vs Allan Saint-Maximin 

Newcastle's ability to get on the front foot and take sides head-on hasn't really come to the front this season, but their attacking strengths do lie on the counter-attack.

Albeit against League One opposition, Allan Saint-Maximin's winner at Oxford epitomized where United can cause problems. 

He's tricky, unpredictable and rather frustrating at times, but on his day can force any full-back in the league into a mistake.  

When Newcastle do get opportunities to catch Arsenal on the break, their French winger is crucial to getting them up the field and making something happen out of nothing - he is their enigma. 

His fellow countryman and the opposite number has had a tough time with injuries - they both have - but he has made the number one right-back slot his own during his nine-year stay in the capital. 

Despite Arsenal being the clear favourites, the game remains a clash of two sides level on points, and that is something Newcastle must take hope from.

They've already won in North London once this season, but to repeat that feat this time around they will need to put in another remarkable performance this time around. 

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