Can Newcastle beat Arsenal this afternoon?
Is the only way that can happen, by smashing it into Aleksandar Mitrovic who will bulldoze the Arsenal defence?
Much of this week’s pre-match patter has surrounded the possibility that Wenger could once again be missing Mertesacker and Koscielny after illness/injury ruled them out of Monday’s game against Liverpool.
The implication being that if they are ruled out, then Newcastle already have one hand on the points because Mitrovic will have a field day against their replacements.
Calum Chambers and Gabriel Paulista didn’t have the best of games on Monday but Arsenal still kept a clean sheet, with a big helping hand or two from Petr Cech.
However, the way I have heard some people going on, you would think that Mitrovic and his teammates were going to be facing two centre-backs who had the height and physique of Vurnon Anita and the awareness of Mike Williamson.
I don’t think it will help Arsenal if both Mertesacker and Koscielny miss out, but I think you still have to give it a bit of perspective.
The £27m that Arsenal spent on Chambers and Paulista, is more than Newcastle have spent on all of the defenders in our squad.
Let’s be honest as well, much as we have seen some promising signs from Chancel Mbemba in the games so far, a big part of the excitement at hs signing was the fact that Mike Ashley was allowing more money to be spent on a defender than he had done in the last seven years (since Coloccini).
If we had signed Chambers and Paulista, Newcastle fans would have thought it was great business.
Only 20, Chambers has already played a few times for England and looks a great prospect, whilst Gabriel Paulista was called up by Brazil earlier this year and still has his career ahead of him at the age of 24.
As for their height, both are taller than any Newcastle centre-back other than Jamaal Lascelles (who definitely won’t get a game today) and…Mike Williamson.
My hope is that Newcastle can actually match Arsenal in their general football play today.
Instead of sitting back and admiring their passing & movement as so often has been the case, I hope United push up on them and mix it. Win the ball high up the pitch and put the visitors under pressure and help get the crowd going.
With players such as Wijnaldum, Perez, Aarons, Thauvin, Sissoko to choose from, Newcastle now have their own potentially exciting combination of players, who if it all comes together should be able to cause problems for any team, including Arsenal.
I actually think that Aleksandar Mitrovic could be of most use at the opposite end of the pitch today. Arsenal have won the last seven games against United and Olivier Giroud has scored eight goals from his five starts.
The French striker has caused particular problems at set-pieces and Mike Williamson might have had the height but Giroud has totally dominated him. Mitrovic has to mark Giroud at every free-kick and corner, something which could go a long way towards bringing at least a draw and potentially a win for Newcastle.
Obviously we will also look to Mitrovic to show both strength and intelligence in holding the ball up and helping the team to develop attacks. The Mitrovic header against the bar at Old Trafford also shows what the Serbian is capable of if getting the right delivery.
Put the ball in the right place and I would put money on Mitrovic getting on the end of it, whichever Arsenal defenders are up against him.
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