Arsenal v Newcastle United
Saturday 29 December 2012 5.30pm (live on ESPN)
I usually enjoy my day out at Arsenal, apart from the match obviously.
Having said that our recent form (two matches) has seen us win with an Andy Carroll header and then saw an injury time goal deprive Newcastle of a deserved point last season.
If you really insist though and include the previous ten visits then you’d add nine defeats and a solitary draw on our visits to Highbury & the Emirates.
New signings such as Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud are gradually showing their worth and three consecutive wins have seen the Gunners edge up into seventh with a game in hand, though in between they met that infamous defeat at Bradford.
Whatever happens you know they’ll eventually finish in the top four, they always do.
While they obviously have a lot of good players, their supply of really top class players seems to have run dry, with the likes of Fabregas and others replaced by quality but not top quality.
When checking on their stats this season I had to look twice when I saw Theo Walcott was top scorer with 11 in all competitions. In the final year of his contract he maybe belatedly is really trying to impress somebody, whether it is Arsenal or a new destination.
At home Arsenal have a very average record of four wins, two draws against Fulham and the Mackems, plus defeats by Swansea and Chelsea.
While they might not be reaching their previous heights the passing games is still there with Cazorla and Wilshere looking handy in recent matches.
I have a bit of a bad feeling that our match at Old Trafford might prove to not be a true reflection on either the Mancs or us. By playing the pedestrian Giggs, Carrick and Scholes together in midfield it created a great opportunity for Newcastle to get something, only for our defending to hand the points away. I’d really like to think that against a more energetic opposing midfield, Marveaux will be able to add another decent performance but I have my doubts.
In fact I think that as a team we may struggle to get good possession in their half, though hopefully with Tiote in front of Coloccini and Perch we’ll be a bit harder to break down than that second half collapse at Old Trafford. Plus of course Arsenal don’t have a Robin Van Persie…
The injury to Anita (and no second yellow for Valencia!) was the final slap in the face on Boxing Day, which combined with Jonas’ confirmed absence for a few games minimum leaves us well short of options.
At a guesstimate I can see Alan Pardew putting out the following in a a kind of 4-1-3-2 formation;
Krul; Simpson, Coloccini, Perch, Santon; Tiote; Marveaux, Bigirimana, Obertan; Ba, Cisse
The biggest thing going for Newcastle is maybe that a bit like Old Trafford the players can go out without fear because most people expect a defeat. Ba and Cisse can be a handful for any team and the latter’s class left foot finish against Manchester United suggests that his touch might be on the way back.
If Newcastle can just cut out the soft goals then they could just pull something off against a team who have been in and out all season.
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