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Opinion

So Arsenal are a big club…Unlike Steve Bruce, Unai Emery was less willing to talk up his opponents

2 months ago
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Newcastle United welcome Arsenal to St James Park today.

The first game of a season where fans are even more than ever, unsure of how it is going to go.

Only once since 2005 have the Magpies beaten the Gunners at St James Park.

In the last 36 meetings (all competitions), home and away, Newcastle have won only three

Ben Cooper focuses on today’s opponents…Arsenal.

Who Manages Them?

Unai Emery should be a better Arsenal manager for last year’s experience.

He will have got used to the requirements of the Premier League now and has replaced some of the players who didn’t sign up for his new way of thinking. As Aaron Ramsey said on MOTD last season, the new boss wanted them to “press high up the pitch” and that some of the players “needed more time to work it out.” What he was really saying was that the manager wants them to run around and some of them need more time to work out where they will be playing next season. No one asks Arsenal players to run around.

Emery will have his stamp on the team much more this season and let’s not forget that any manager who has got Valencia into the Champions League three years on the trot, winning the Europa League with Sevilla three times and a Ligue 1 title at PSG, must be pretty good. He has a reputation as being a complete ‘pesado’, a pain in the backside, but in a similar way to Rafa Benitez, with time spent improving players and team to become tactically and technically better.

Many players have complained of the hours and hours they spent watching videos under Emery, not the same sort of videos that Keiron Dyer and Titus Bramble spent hours watching under Bobby Robson though, which were more about the finish than the build-up.

‘Unai Emery: Not always a happy ending’

Who Have They Signed?

The Gunners bought five players this summer with young centre-back William Saliba being immediately loaned back to Saint-Etienne after his £27million transfer.

A new look defence will include David Luiz, a snip at £8million from The Simpsons after Krusty The Clown told him he was surplus to requirements. While Luiz may not improve their defensive resilience much, he should thrive in a ball playing role in a back three. If his small fee, a tenth of what Manyoo paid for Harry Maguire, shows the folly of football, his departure also shows how much football has changed.

Angry Chelsea fans have reacted to Luiz’s move across the capital by writing negative reviews about his Mayfair restaurant. It’s all gone so middle class, they used to invade the pitch and Stanley Knife your back.

Completing the new back line (once fit) will be Kieran Tierney from Celtic. The £25million left back will presumably do the same job that Andy Robertson has done at Liverpool, run a lot, cross a lot, cover a bit:

“I got told at seven o’clock last night that I had to be at the airport in an hour, so I had to go quickly. I was actually down the park with my friends!” Said 8-year-old Kieran yesterday.

‘A delighted Kieran Tierney can’t stop smiling after signing for Arsenal’

Both Tierney and Luiz won´t feature today and up front, winger Nicolas Pepe will be one to look out for, though it is doubtful he will play today as well. After a Love Island style attempt to court Arsenal fan Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace, the Gunners eventually gave up and spent £72million on Pepe from Lille.

Arsenal also signed Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid. On paper, Ceballos was the replacement for Aaron Ramsey but the reality of the Gunners transfer window is that although they have recruited some good players, they don’t seem to have replaced the quality of Ramsey or the steel of departed captain Koscielny either.

A Special Mention For: VAR

I’m boycotting the match and watching it on hooky TV but I wasn’t expecting the referee to do the same. While VAR is welcome for the eradication of obvious mistakes which are clear-cut, offside goals, the ball going out etc, I am not looking forward for the game being stopped for two minutes to see whether Lascelles’ bootlaces touched the back of Lacazette’s calf and that was enough for him to fall down for a penalty.

I watched a Spanish game last season where all three goals were VAR goals or penalties, none given in real time. Hopefully, VAR won’t have too much effect on the flow of the game but remember, if we are lucky enough to score, don’t celebrate until we have waited a couple of minutes for the re-runs to decide whether it was a goal or not. It won’t bother Steve Bruce though, he will be using VAR to watch re-runs of our first goal in Howay 5-0 to prove it wasn’t over the line.

‘Martin Atkinson: Can someone tell me whether that was a penalty or not please?’

How Will They Do This Season?

They have a good manager, they have bought some good players, they finished 5th and got to the Europa League final last year so there is every chance Arsenal will do well this season. In the 24 hours after the transfer window closed, one report suggested that 23% of bets went on Arsenal winning the Premier League so the fools and their money easily parted suggest that Arsenal will do very well indeed.

I am not so sure. The two attacking full-backs, a ball-playing centre half and three quality attackers suggest a 3-4-3 formation and undoubtedly the manager likes it and some of the players suit that formation. The problems for Arsenal will come if some of those key players are unavailable, like they are today.

Defensively, I think they will struggle to keep clean sheets and while Torreira was impressive last season, their quality midfield players seem to lack consistency and heart, the more combative midfielders a long way behind those of their rivals. Frankly, I don’t see any of their centre-backs or central midfielders getting in the teams around them.

If Arsenal are to finish in the top four this year, which they can, their stand-out players will have to play most games, really stand-out and their quality manager will have to wring every last drop out of them. If those things don´t happen, then another could-have-been season awaits.

Are We Going To Win?

With Osil and Kolasinic missing for London daftness related security reasons, Mustafi told he can leave, Luiz and Tierney not yet registered, Pepe and Lacazette not match fit and Bellerin injured, means that Emery´s squad will be tested this weekend. Even so, Steve Bruce is under no illusions as to the task at hand, saying on Friday:

“Make no mistake – they were Europa League finalists [last season]. They’re a big club and have been for years… You always know it’s going to be a tough game. They are a big club that have threats at the top of the field. I expect them to be very good and they have had a wonderful window.”

So they are a big club then, got it. Unlike Steve Bruce, Unai Emery was less willing to talk up his opponents:

“After Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United have the same objective as us. Last year we had a very small points difference between us. This is another challenge for them, for us.

“Other teams are coming back, signing very good players, working very well. Everton, West Ham, Leicester, Wolverhampton, Watford. The Premier League is the best competition in the world.”

Newcastle United, also featuring in the best competition in the world this weekend.

Howay the Lads.

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