Newcastle are a blow hot, blow cold kind of a team. They’re capable of massive wins against sides like Sunderland and Villa but they can also lose to Blackpool at home. We don’t know which one will turn up tomorrow much in the same way as we don’t know which Arsenal will turn up!
The Barcodes (my favourite nickname in the Premiership) are a good team. They can play a physical game with long balls, good set-pieces, and shots from distance. They can also pass the ball around a bit as they’ve attempted over 400 passes in about half their league games.
With the likes of Nolan, Alan Smith, and Joey Barton in their side the Magpies can sometimes get overly physical but hopefully the ref will keep things tight. I don’t want to see the likes of Wilshere or Nasri getting provoked and reacting rashly with such a tight schedule coming up, and I certainly don’t want to see another Arsenal player picking up a niggling injury like Diaby did after that horrendous tackle by Robinson.
To me the most relevant detail is that Newcastle won’t bring anything to the table that we’ve not seen before. With key players returning after a rest, precautionary or otherwise, I’m hoping Arsenal will play with purpose and conviction. If that happens it won’t matter which Toon side turns up.
Obviously, we will need to deal with the aerial threat and physical presence of Carroll and Nolan. Can Koscielny, Squillaci, Sagna and Song deal with it? Absolutely. As long as the midfield stays close to the defence and attacks the second ball we should not have a problem. If they drift apart we will face problems similar to the ones we did against Shakhtar.
On the ball Tiote and Jose Enrique are two of their key passers with Barton and Gutierrez providing the creative threat. Once again, nothing we haven’t dealt with in the past but good enough that they deserve respect and our A-game.
I have a feeling this game could be a high scoring one. Newcastle are the highest scoring team in the league outside the top three. They also have a relatively weaker defence. If Arsenal can knock an early one in, this game will be real fun.
As far as the starting line-up goes I expect Sagna and Koscielny to come in for Eboue and Djourou. In the middle we should see Song, Wilshere, and Cesc. It will be interesting to see the attackers that Arsene picks. I guess Chamakh will be an automatic choice and I hope Walcott keeps his place. This will leave one place for Nasri or Arshavin.
My preferred starting eleven would be,
Fabianski – Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy – Song, Cesc, Wilshere – Walcott, Chamakh, Nasri.
With Bendtner, Arshavin, and Rosicky on the bench we should have enough strength to mount a late attack but I’m hoping Gooner nerves will not be tested in this game. Here’s to a high scoring encounter with Arsenal winning by a two goal margin. A clean sheet will be good but I won’t bet on it.