Arsenal boss Wenger preparing for ‘a battle’ against Newcastle

WARNING ... Wenger.
WARNING ... Wenger.

MANAGER Arsene Wenger says Arsenal must prepare for a battle and forget about Newcastle’s poor recent form ahead of tonight’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. Jack Wilshere also still misses out.