The season is once upon us again and while we debate our chances of any glory this season through our summer signings it’s only what we do on the pitch that counts. This game needs no introduction after last seasons colossus collapse at St. James park that highlighted our defensive frailties which quite frankly are still there. Arsenal had the chance to go within two points of Man Utd and equal their goal differences after a loss to Wolves and although the draw didn’t put us in a bad position to mount a title challenge many fans, and players, saw that game as the catalyst in the demise of our season.
Do stats back us up?
Since the 05/06 season we’ve played Newcastle 13 times (10PL); winning 7, drawing 4 and losing just 2. In those games we scored 26 goals against their 9 with RVP (5) an TW (3) our most frequent scorers. Having said that Arsenal haven’t won an away PL game in the last 4 games (Drawing to Spurs/Fulham & Losing to Bolton/Stoke with RVP scoring in all 9 of them, if you fancy a bet he’s your man! Newcastle also attempted 19 shots at home v Arsenal, more than in any of their other PL games. This baffles me somewhat, Newcastle don’t have the most impressive attacking force in the Premier League so do we play more open against them? Given the fact Diaby got sent off wouldn’t have helped as all know on a good day Diaby can rule the midfield. Having a player sent off in both our PL fixtures last season, picking up 1 point, we really need to look at keep all 11 men on the field, especially if we end up losing Cesc & Nasri.
What do you think we learnt from ‘that’ game last season? Does Arsenal clearly have the best attacking force in the league along with the worst defence under pressure? Going forward from that game I sadly think we haven’t learnt from it and improved. Our run at the end of last season proved that and with this season vastly approaching I don’t that anything has changed.
These stats clearly list us as favorites but what will determine the outcome will be the sort of team we’ve able to field.
A massive boost before the weekend is that our key man RVP is fit to play and will captain. A man who has always shown his commitment to Arsenal and would thoroughly deserve the captaincy on a full time basis. Wilshere unfortunately misses out and is also a doubt for Tuesday.
Gibbs & Vermaelen have recovered from their knocks and are included. Diaby remains our only long-term absence that I feel us fans have gotten used to over the years.
Cesc & Nasri have not been included, due to match fitness & injury…I’ll leave that open for interpretation. This was widely predicted and hasn’t caused too much surprise.
Who to look out for
Gervinho: Certain to start, contributed during pre-season with 2 fine goals and showed the ability to exploit defences with his pace
Rosicky: We need someone to step up to the plate and help lead the team. With Cesc & Nasri potentially leaving his experience may prove crucial
Demba Ba: 7 goals in 12 league appearances last year for West Ham, a man to keep tightly marked
Joey Barton: If selected he’ll look to get into our faces, good from set pieces so he’ll also look to exploit our Achilles heel
Who’s in charge?
With Peter Walton in charge of Saturday’s game don’t expect any fireworks. An experienced referee who last season only awarded 2 penalties and 5 red cards. His last game in charge of Arsenal was a 1 nil win over Stoke at the Emirates with only 3 yellow cards shown, surprising when you think about the opponents.
Possible Line Ups?
GK: Szczesny; DEF: Sagna, Djourou, Vermaelen, Gibbs; MID: Rosicky, Song, Ramsey; ATT: Arshavin, RVP, Gervinho
With this team Arsenal will look to continue their attacking trade. Expect to see Rosicky playing through balls opening up Newcastle’s defence with Gervinho on the receiving end. Sagna & Gibbs will march forward providing support, picking out RVP in the 6-yard box to tap home. I’m not expecting a free flowing match and with the current media hype around our key players I’ll be happy to head home to London with a scrappy 1 nil win.
Although this is Arsenal, so I’m going for a 3-1 win.