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Howe: Arsenal clash is a 'big test of our credentials'

Newcastle United's Premier League game against Arsenal on Saturday will be a "really big test of our credentials", according to Magpies boss Eddie Howe.

United face Mikel Arteta's men at St. James' Park (5:30pm kick-off) hoping for a victory which would stop the Gunners overtaking their north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the top of the table.

A win for the hosts would also see Newcastle close the gap between themselves and the top five, and head coach Howe wants his side to "find ways to make it very difficult" for the visitors as his charges look to follow up their impressive 3-0 Carabao Cup victory at Manchester United with another strong display.

He also reflected on that fine midweek performance at Old Trafford, as well as issuing an injury update and praising the impact of Joe Willock, who netted against the Red Devils on his first start since May.

Here are some of the main topics that were up for discussion at Howe's pre-match media briefing on Friday morning...

On Arsenal, who are looking to mount another title challenge after going close last term:

"It speaks for itself what they achieved (last season). They recruited really well in the summer. I think they have moved on from last year, mentally moved on and stepped it up. They are unbeaten, (and) it is a really big test of our credentials. We are going to have to find ways to make it very difficult for them but we are looking forward to the game."

On the win at Old Trafford and its effect on his side's morale:

"It was great to be able to give everyone an opportunity and I thought they responded magnificently. It was a brilliant team effort. I thought the spirit, determination and collective mindset was at the highest level. We are in a good place mentally after the win, the whole squad will be lifted by that performance."

On his pride in his players as they navigate a hectic and challenging run of fixtures:

"I am proud of the players. It was always going to be tough and we knew that at the start - there's been no change to that.

"We've been dealt some really difficult blows. It's not been plain sailing for us, we have had to be resilient and robust and deal with some challenges. I have to compliment the players on how they have been, the challenge never gets easier."

On forward Alexander Isak, who is currently sidelined...

"I think hopefully, he'll be fit for the first game after the international break. But he's still got a long way to go before we get to that point."

On what is looking like a busy December for his side, who will compete on three fronts next month...

"We would love to get a couple of players back. I think the challenge for us, and this is always the case when you have injuries, is then you're exposing certain players to more gametime than you'd really want, so avoiding more injuries would be the key thing for us.

"You're right about December - we've always had that month there and it's relentless. Now of course we've qualified for the next round of the Carabao Cup, there's no breather in there. That's going to be a real test for us but we're enjoying the games, I have to say. We're enjoying the different competitions and interchanging between competitions. It's been a really good thing for us, and we just need to get back to full strength as quickly as possible."

On the injury suffered by Matt Targett, who had to be withdrawn just minutes into Wednesday night's game:

"It doesn't look good. He is having his scan today so we will know more today. When you have a hamstring injury, you sort of fear the worst. It is a real blow to lose him, he is a top player."

On former Arsenal midfielder Willock's impact, who has returned to the fold in style after six months out:

"I think Joe deserves a lot of credit for his performance because his athleticism, his speed and his general game was there after a long absence.

"He was making runs from the first minute. He scored his goal at the time he was going to come off! I was delighted with that aspect of his performance. He is a huge player for us. I am so glad he scored - that would have done him the world of good."


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Eddie Howe's pre-Arsenal media briefing in full

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