Paul Merson has been looking ahead to his former club Arsenal’s visit to St James Park.
Once again though, you have to ask just how much research does he do and work put in, to give his ‘expert’ opinion.
I do think that he relies simply on what he happens to see, rather than going looking for what is the true story of games he is paid to preview and analyse.
At least this match includes the team he supports and so that gives him a bit of an advantage, although even with Arsenal he really only scratches the surface.
Paul Merson sees it simply as Arsenal having had a long run of ‘hard fixtures’ before then ‘easy fixtures’.
Before last night’s draw in Moscow that took them into the Europa League semi-finals, Arsenal had won six in a row (all competitions), but these included five home matches against much weaker opposition. Three home defeats of Watford, Stoke and Southampton, Europa home win over CSKA Moscow, then home and away victories over AC Milan – this isn’t the AC Milan of old though, they are 29 points off the top of Serie A.
Merson doesn’t even mention that this season has been one of home and away form for the Gunners, in the Premier League only Man City have better results, whilst on their travels only Everton of the top 12 have picked up less points.
It is four months now since Arsenal won away in the Premier League and during that time they also were hammered 4-2 by Forest in the FA Cup, as well as losing to the likes of Swansea, Brighton and Bournemouth, plus drawing at West Brom.
Also, whilst Paul Merson does mention that Arsenal were due to play their match in Moscow last night, he doesn’t mention that with nothing to play for in the Premier League, Arsene Wenger played his best side at home to CSKA last week and was nailed on to do it last night (which he did), meaning many of their best players are guaranteed not to start against Newcastle, only some 60 hours later and after much travelling.
As for Newcastle, Merson simply says the Magpies ‘have been alright recently’.
With four wins and a draw in their last six games, I think fair to say it has been better than ‘alright’.
An excellent win at Leicester and three home wins in a row (Man U, Southampton and Huddersfield) without conceding a goal, puts Newcastle higher in the recent PL form table than Arsenal.
Maybe his most clueless remark is saying that Newcastle ‘will give you chances but they will have a go’.
Whilst Rafa has encouraged his team to attack more, the basis of his plan is still on having a solid defence to try and ensure a clean sheet.
The stats show how recent wins have been built from the back and not on giving the opposition their chance, against Leicester the Foxes only had the one effort on target, Huddersfield didn’t have a single one, whilst Southampton had just two shots on target as they lost 3-0. Even when losing 2-0 at Liverpool, the scousers managed that despite only three efforts on target (Newcastle had two).
In their last eight Premier League games at St James Park, as well as not conceding in the last three home matches, Rafa’s team have only conceded four goals in the last eight games.
Paul Merson predicts a 2-2 draw but surely this is a match where Newcastle can take the game to his beloved Gunners, a weakened visiting team with nothing to play for in the league and who have only won three games away from home all season.
Despite Premier League safety already more or less secured, this is a game I can’t wait for, and a long overdue win hopefully against this lot (last win at St James Park back in 2005 against Arsenal).
Paul Merson talking to Sky Sports:
“Newcastle have been alright recently.
“They will give you chances but they will have a go, while Arsenal will have had a long trip to Russia on Thursday.
“Arsenal have not been great but they have won games recently, so credit where it is due.
“After a load of hard fixtures they have had easy fixtures and they have put those teams to bed at home.
“You can’t ask for much more.
“They have done well considering they were up against it.
“Prediction is Newcastle 2 Arsenal 2.”
Newcastle v Arsenal Match Betting with BetVictor:
Newcastle win 9/4 – Draw 13/5 – Arsenal win 5/4
Perez to score first goal 9/1 – NUFC win 1-0 12/1 – Slimani to score in both halves 33/1