Newcastle v Arsenal
Who Manages Them:
Three weeks is a long time in football.
At the start of August, Arsene Wenger must have thought he’d finally cracked it at the Emirates. After a 2014 of unprecedented fan criticism about his recent record from a previously loyal section of Gooners, and a media mauling from dimwit Piers Morgan, 2015 seemed to be heading in the right direction for ‘Le Professeur’.
An exciting climax to last season, including an FA Cup Final thrashing of Villa, was followed by retaining key players in the squad, the long-awaited signing of a proper goalkeeper instead of more lightweight playmakers and a Charity Shield win against Chelsea:
Wenger said after the game:
“It was important for the team to get that hurdle out of the way”
Highlighting the Gunners’ previous inability to beat last season’s Champions.
Three weeks later their goalkeeper looks as much Binks as Banks, a 16 year old West Ham schoolboy outplayed them at the Emirates to take the points in the first game of the season and already after three league games they find themselves five points behind a title contender, something Arsenal have been unable to overcome in previous seasons.
Wenger has pointed to early season cobwebs as one reason:
“We have started very average I must concede, sharpness is missing a little bit in some players. It’s normal after two or three games that you’re not at 100 per cent. Some players are not completely there yet.”
It seems odd that he would highlight this, it is part of his job to get the players sharp for the start of the season rather than by January, which happened last season. Man City already look at 100% and could be too far ahead to catch by the time Arsenal are ‘completely there’.
In the Summer Wenger said that he had no plans to quit and that retirement would send him into a ‘panic’ but again he looks like he will have more questions to answer this season than his big-spending rivals, and it may not be his choice as to when he retires, from Arsenal at least.
Yes, Wenger has built a team that is great to watch at times but he seems happier to get distracted by talk of video technology, bickering with Jose Mourinho, or generalising about society going down the bidet, than finding a solution to why his team can’t score at home, or why he still hasn’t got a midfielder who can dominate the opposition.
Who Have They Bought?
A year is a long time in football.
£10million Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech was a summer signing from Chelsea where he had spent over a decade winning 13 trophies, he’ll have a chance to add the FA Cup to those trophies during his spell at Arsenal.
Cech’s demotion at Chelsea was expected but hard to take for the keeper who kept a record 228 clean sheets for the London club:
“Last summer, things changed and I understood I was no longer the first-choice keeper, but I felt it was not the right time for me to go. During the season, it became clear that my situation would not improve and I made my decision to move and look for new challenges.”
Cech was a bit unlucky that although he was one of the best keepers in the PL, some upstart who Chelsea signed as his long-term replacement quickly grew into one of the best keepers in Europe and took his place.
Signing for Arsenal should have been a match made in heaven, the Gunners had been crying out for a decent keeper for years and so far Cech has fitted into the Arsenal defence perfectly, he’s as inconsistent as the rest of them.
He’s easy to spot, since being ‘carelessly’ kicked in the head in a game against Reading in 2010, he has worn a rubber hat during games. He obviously doesn’t need the hat, the PL wouldn’t let him be a footballer if he wasn’t up to it, though somehow Michael Owen managed to take a 100k a week off us for four years without them noticing.
Perhaps Arsenal like their players performing in fancy dress, Cech as RoboCop patrolling downtown Detroit City with his OCP colleagues, Per Mertesacker, running like C3PO in front of him, Ozil as Gollum, putting the ring of power on his finger and disappearing for 90 minutes a week.
Apart from that, Cech is always good for a laugh because his name is Cech and he is Czech, funny that, changing the name slightly to show off one of the player’s charactistics. Arsene Whinger is an obvious one, assistant coach Steve Bald a little more tactless, Jack Ill-shire perhaps more amusing and Mathieu Debenchy well deserved.
Who Have We Seen Before:
A year is a long time in football. Mathieu Debenchy, a £5.5million signing from Lille who came to NUFC to play with his friends but when his friends left, he left as well.
He played 43 times for us and departed in the summer of 2014 for twice what we paid for him, Mike Ashley’s trousers were around his ankles after that bit of business. I was never Debuchy’s biggest fan, his inconsistent performances, like those of his replacement Daryl Janmaat. belying their status as international defenders with such obvious and unprofessional errors.
Debuchy has continued those inconsistencies at Arsenal, for that reason he has only played 67 minutes of the 0-2 defeat at home to West Ham so far this season and without him Arsenal have only conceded one goal in three matches. I’m sure we’ll see him back on the pitch soon, at Crystal Palace.
After his move from Tyneside to London, Debuchy claimed he had only used NUFC as a “stepping stone” in his career and you can’t argue that a year on he is the first name on the Arsenal team-sheet, Debuchy – Sub.
A Special Mention For:
Two months is a long time in football. In the summer, the papers reported that Jack Wilshire was looking for a showdown meeting with Arsene Wenger over his role in the Arsenal team, Wenger pushing Wilshere further upfield than international manager Roy Hodgson, who preferred the loudmouth in a more defensive role.
All of which sums up Jack Wilshire’s career. The only part of him which works properly is his gob. He’s injured at the moment, probably something wrong with his ankle that wouldn’t keep a four year old out of Jungle Junction for more than two minutes but will keep Wilshire on the treatment table for months.
How Will They Do This Season:
Eleven years is a long time in football. It is eleven seasons since Arsenal last won the Premier League and nine years since they last got to the Champions League final. Next season when I write this preview, that’ll be twelve and ten respectively.
Are We Going To Win:
Ten years is a long time in football and a long time to watch your team fail to beat Arsenal at SJP, even if NUFC usually play well and the games are entertaining.
This season however, with central defensive injuries to Arsenal’s most experienced defenders I can see NUFC scoring, even if Giroud will certainly score for them.
As ever, Arsenal have skilful attacking players, but if we defend like we did last weekend, the pace, power and skill of our attacking players should at least match the Gunners.
As Wenger said earlier this week:
“We want to do well at Newcastle but it’s always very, very, very tight and very committed there because the crowd is always behind their team.”
Get behind your team on Saturday, ninety minutes is a long time in football.
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