Arsenal can take a major step towards UEFA Champions League qualification when they host out-of-sorts Newcastle United on Monday.
A comprehensive 3-0 defeat at Everton earlier this month left the north London club’s hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League apparently hanging by a thread.
Roberto Martinez’s team were dominant throughout at Goodison Park and took their European destiny into their own hands with that result.
However, since then, Arsenal have recorded restorative wins over West Ham and Hull City, while Everton have dropped points either side of a high-profile triumph.
Manchester United were dispatched in similar fashion to Arsenal at Goodison over the Easter weekend, ultimately bringing down the curtain on David Moyes’ Old Trafford reign.
But a 3-2 home defeat to Crystal Palace and Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Southampton could ultimately prove costly in the race for fourth place.
The upshot is that Arsenal will open up a four-point lead in the final Champions League spot should they inflict a sixth consecutive Premier League reverse on an embattled Newcastle side.
And the good news for the club’s fans is that Wenger looks set to be around to lead any challenge in Europe next season, after all but confirming that he will remain in charge of the side he has led since 1996 when his contract expires at the end of the season.
He told beIN Sports: “Look, I have said that many times already, I have given my word to this club and that I want to continue where I am…That means to stay.”
Wenger’s immediate focus will be on his selections to face Newcastle, with England international Jack Wilshere still thought to be a week or so away from full fitness following a foot problem.
Fellow midfielder Aaron Ramsey returned to make a first start since Boxing Day at Hull and showed glimpses of his superb early-season form.
For Newcastle, meanwhile, manager Alan Pardew will return to the dugout at the Emirates Stadium following a seven-match ban.
Newcastle have won just once since Pardew’s unsightly flashpoint with Hull midfielder David Meyler during a 4-1 win in March.
Six defeats in seven outings since then has seen Newcastle’s season unravel, and Pardew has vowed to return to the touchline a reformed character in the bid to turn that slump around.
“I think I will sit down a little bit more, but I still will be on the touchline,” he said. “It’s important that the team sees I’m there – we are a team and I am part of that.
“I have thought about my situation going forward and I think I will be better for it.”
Newcastle must look to bounce back without striker Papiss Cisse, who suffered a broken kneecap to end his season during last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat against Swansea City.
Fellow forward Luuk de Jong faces a late fitness test due to an ankle problem sustained during the same match.
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