Arsenal are building up some momentum. A hard fought win against Birmingham was followed by an emphatic one against Shakhtar. Subsequently, a massive win over City has put us in the second spot in the League and the vibes that were highly negative at the time of the last international break just after the defeat against Chelsea, are certainly quite positive.
What we need now is consistency so that we can go into the traditionally tougher winter months of November and December with a highly positive mindset.
Thankfully, with some players returning from injury, Arsene seems to have a large enough set of players to choose from. This means he can rotate the players without making a big compromise in terms of quality of the starting eleven.
Of course, I don’t expect us to field a team anywhere as good as the one that won at the City of Manchester stadium but we should have a starting line-up good enough to win a tough away fixture against a physical, hard working side that knocked Chelsea out in the previous round.
I’m finding it difficult to comment on the tactical aspect of this game because a lot will depend on the choices of Chris Hughton. Broadly speaking, I expect us to continue with our style irrespective of who starts for either team. Similarly, we can be fairly certain Newcastle will rely on their physical game and aerial strengths. The details will depend on whether they have enough quality in midfield and attack and their approach to the game. I hope the hosts won’t play for a draw hoping to get lucky in a shoot-out. I don’t have to remind anyone that we could do without the extra minutes.
Arsene has said that he will send out a strong side with a core of first team players. It’s not surprising because we have guys like Denilson, Gibbs, Eboue, Vela and Rosicky who need games and others like Bendtner, Walcott, and Koscielny who also need playing time as they are returning from injury.
I won’t be surprised if we see only two or three youngsters in the starting line up. Having said that, I can see it’s not a completely valid statement. Walcott, Gibbs, and Vela are all still youngsters; just that they are well advanced in their development.
Many of us have been looking forward to seeing Szczesny in goal and it looks quite likely that the youngster will get his first big chance on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to his performance. Having heard a lot but seen very little, I’ve not formed an opinion on the youngster and so I’m excited at the prospect of seeing him in action in a tough away game. Arsene hit the nail on the head when he said, “Let’s not make stars before they prove they are.” For the young Pole, the process of proving he has what it takes begins at St. James’ park.
The back four should be fairly strong. I expect our regular full backs will get a rest with Eboue and Gibbs coming in. If Koscielny is fit enough to start that should also see Squillaci getting a well deserved break. Djourou needs more games as he has not played as much as the others.
Wenger’s real headache will be in the midfield and attacking positions. If Walcott and Bendtner are fit to start, the striker and right wing positions would be reserved for them. That leaves an opening on the left and three in the middle.
Denilson could start as the holding midfielder and Rosicky as the attacking one leaving one spot in the middle and one on the left.
I’m not sure what’s going on with Diaby but if he is fit he should play. If not I’d like to see Lansbury get a start in a central midfield role. Vela could come in on the left but that might leave us a bit exposed on either wing.
The other option would be to have Diaby and Lansbury in the middle and Rosicky on the left.
Such a line-up would mean that the unbelievably (in Wenger’s words) talented JET will have to be content with a spot on the bench. The problem for him is that Bendtner and Walcott need to play and they take up his best positions.
I expect the following line-up,
Szczesny – Eboue, Koscielny, Djourou, Gibbs – Denilson, Diaby, Lansbury – Walcott, Bendtner, Rosicky.
On paper that looks like a very strong team. However, I’m not sure these players will be able to play together as well as the first team does. The main reason for that is that many of them haven’t played regularly and will be rusty. They will also struggle to understand each other on the pitch and we won’t see the instinctive understanding we see when Cesc, Nasri, and others play.
That should give Newcastle some hope, especially considering the fact that they have decent depth of their own and will be playing at home. Let’s also not forget they went away to a place like Stamford Bridge and won after scoring 4 goals. That too after making 10 changes, if I’m not mistaken. That said, I still expect Arsenal to win this one but it won’t be as comfortable as some might suggest.
We will have a strong bench and that should help us recover if things don’t go our way. Apart from kids like Eastmond and JET, I expect regulars like Arshavin, Chamakh, Cesc, and Song on the bench.
A strong display will set us up nicely for the game against West Ham. We don’t have to think too far ahead; small, emphatic steps will do just fine right now.