Today we visit the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal FC.
In the past we have had some glorious victories away at Arsenal, whether it has been the work of a determined defensive effort spear-headed by gladiators like Andy Carroll and Paul Goddard, or even Robbie Elliott, all three have scored goals at Arsenal to win 0-1 when I’ve been watching.
Or it was the work of a heroic 11/10 who played Arsenal off the pitch, free flowing attacking football featuring Shearer, Robert, Dyer and Bellamy.
Which one will today be? Well we’ve got an idea haven’t we? We usually keep one clean sheet a month and we haven’t had one yet in January.
(Arsene Wenger pictured above ‘Arsene Wenger : Back from the jungle’)
Although the gulf in class between the two clubs is obvious throughout the whole squad, nowhere is it more obvious than in goal. For NUFC it looks like Karl Darlow will again be looking like he’s filling his pants for 90 minutes between the sticks at the Emirates, though hopefully the rest of the squad have been practising not passing back to him for the last four days in training.
With Rob Elliot still looking doubtful with a stomach complaint, Darlow will find that there is no hiding place for him in North London, Arsenal are in a different attacking league to WBA, Darlow is either up for it or he’s not and if he’s not then we’re in trouble. Hopefully he’s spent as much time on crosses as he has on his hair this week.
No such problems for Arsenal, £10million Petr Cech has obviously made a huge difference to Arsenal’s defensive confidence and is providing the foundation on which the Gooners’ title challenge is built. His clean sheet against Bournemouth broke the PL’s all time shut-out record, his 170th in English league football. He’s a keen drummer too and recently claimed that sessions on the Playstation game ROCK BAND with Carlo Cudicini improved his reactions and made him a better goalkeeper.
“It is especially useful for a goalkeeper. There are so many things I learn on the drums that I can use in goalkeeping as well, because the hand-eye co-ordination and the independence on each of the limbs is helpful.”
Rumours that the same technique but based on the workings of Barry White have guided Mitrovic’s current training programme, were denied by Steve Black this week.
In the Gunners defence there still looks to be no place for our former right back Mathieu Debuchy, who moved to London for Champions League football at the start of last season. A strange decision by the then French international because he had just as much chance of watching Champions League football on TV on Tyneside as he has of watching it on the telly in London.
The Arsenal back four has looked settled this season, Hector Bellerin at right back, he’s the fastest outfield player in the world according to Pro Evolution Soccer with a 97 rating. Given that speed, perhaps today is the day to invite Florian Thauvin back into our starting line up, we’ve all heard the story about the tortoise and the hare after all!
“Alright Dad?”, “Alright son”
Mertesacker the giraffe should play today and he will be partnered either by Gabriel who played last time out against Bournemouth, or Koscielny, son-of-Wenger. Even at left back Arsenal are spoilt for choice, either England left back Kieran Gibbs or Monreal will be playing today, an embarrassment of riches at left back that we just don’t have, they have a choice of two, we have a choice of none.
For Newcastle our back four picks itself. Not that they are any good, just that only youngster Kevin Mbabu looks like he could come in and do a job but who would Steve McClaren drop? If it was up to me, probably all of them except Mbemba.
In midfield a hamstring injury rules out the much improved Vurnon Anita, I presume it is him anyway, all of the papers call him ‘Vernon’. This will give the much-maligned Cheick Tiote the chance to come back to the first team fold and give us another sighting of his own kind of carnage, never mind Storm Desmond etc, the Met Office should have started with Storm Cheick and then simply incremented it by one for every new incident of devastation. Today at the Emirates it will be Storm Cheick 128.
‘Storm Cheick 128 hitting North London this weekend. The devastation could be catastrophic’
For me, Tiote is just mismanaged. He should be told that if his second touch isn’t a pass then he should just the boot the bugger out. Get it and give it to someone better, he’s great at that, it’s not his fault if there is no one better to give it to.
Colback, Sissoko and Wijnaldum will join Tiote in a midfield which may also include Thauvin and if McClaren gets the chance, another five or six defensive players to make us difficult to break down. That won’t stop the Gunners though, Flamini looks to be back today but it is the football Ozil and Ramsey play which will most cause us to worry and that’s without the injured Sanchez. After the Bournemouth win Wenger said of Ozil:
“I am very, very happy with his performances. He is one of the best in Europe certainly. In his position, he is sensational.”
Add to that the pace Arsenal have on the wings with Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain and this will a taxing afternoon for our defensive players. According to FIFA 16 it is Theo Walcott and not Hector Bellerin who is the fastest outfield player in the world, imagine having two players in your team who can run 100 metres in less than ten seconds?
“The RVI is that way son.”
Imagine having two players in your team who can run 100 metres? To be fair to Pro Evolution Soccer, Walcott may be the fastest player in Europe but he did get injured during their animated trial, even in the pretendy world of gaming Walcott has an injury record which makes Rolando Aarons look like Iron Man.
While Olivier Giroud has overcome his doubters in the early part of the season to claim the one Arsenal striking spot, it is up front which perhaps provides our own greatest riddle. We create so few chances as a team that it doesn’t look like it matters who we play up front, none of them score many goals, all of them lose heart in the endless tail-chasing our tactics seem to encourage.
While it is certainly true that Mitrovic, Perez and De Jong have all missed good chances in the last handful of games, we only remember them because they make up most of the chances we created. None of our forwards are Messi, Neymar or Suarez, but even Andy Cole used to have the nickname ‘1 in 3’, he missed more than he scored. That he scored 41 goals in a season shows how many chances his team-mates created for him.
Cheryl Cole sees the inside of Tandoori Nights more than our strikers see the ball in the penalty area these days. Mitrovic in particular looks like an Alsatian endlessly chasing a ball on the beach, if he doesn’t catch it quickly he’s likely to turn around and bite someone.
And there in a nutshell is the main difference between Arsenal and Newcastle at the moment. Arsenal have a coach who believes in possession, in entertainment and in attacking football. Newcastle have a coach who has only one current aim: self-preservation.
I don’t blame Steve McClaren for that, Newcastle are in a perilous position and he’s got a knacker for a boss, if McClaren keeps us up then the likelihood is he keeps his job, Wenger on the other hand has virtually no chance of losing his. So I don’t blame McClaren for feeling under pressure. I do blame McClaren for the way he goes about it though:
“There are 19 games to go and it would worry me if they weren’t giving attitude, effort, weren’t playing as committed as they are, weren’t creating chances as we are, playing the football that we are…we are just not getting the results from that.”
“Football that we are” Steve? What football is that then?
Wenger has had his problems at Arsenal but he’s always attacked them and tried to resolve them by being better at scoring and winning. McClaren is doing the opposite at Newcastle, while Arsenal’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation is more of a 2-3-2-3 most of the time, our own 4-2-3-1 is more of a 6-4-0.
Their formation has resulted in 33 goals scored and 18 conceded, an almost exact reverse of our 19 scored and 34 conceded. So where has it gone so right for them and so wrong for us? Is it just that they have better players? Well it certainly helps but if you’ve got nowt up front, you usually get nowt from it.
I’d have more time for Shteve if he showed a bit more bollocksh and stopped spouting on about not deserving to lose games and actually tried to win them. He’s got the players to do it. Well, he’s got the players to try it anyway.
Everything else he has tried has been pretty awful, so he might as well have a go at attacking the opposition instead of hiding from them. It’ll be more fun to watch for a start.
My team selection:
Janmaat, Mbemba, Dummett, Mbabu
Sissoko, Tiote, Colback