Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Newcastle

Arsenal host Newcastle on Monday with a chance to go within a point of 3rd. The weekend’s fixtures, barring the Chelsea win, have been kind to the Gunners and now it’s up to them to make the most of it. They haven’t always taken their opportunities in the recent past so the doubts are still there in many Gooner minds for sure. But there also seems to be a new-found belief that has strengthened with every remarkable win.

Speaking of wins, it’s interesting to note that Arsenal have achieved them in very different styles. Against Spurs, the Gunners completely dominated the game but conceded twice before producing that rampaging comeback. At Anfield, it’s fair to say, Arsenal were outplayed for large parts of the game but still hung in there and stole a win with a couple of moments of real inspiration. Milan saw more of the ball at the Emirates but the Gunners blew them away with an electric tempo in the first half before tiring and fading away in the second. Based on these efforts it’s hard to predict which Arsenal side will turn up but one must hope it’s energetic and purposeful one.

Speaking about the intensity his players have found in recent games Arsene said,

We can play at a pace that, at the moment, maybe nobody else can sustain.

That could very well be the key against a determined, well-organized, tenacious, and opportunistic Newcastle side which has some recent history with the Gunners. Arsenal have seen Red in their last three meetings with the Toon which include a home loss and two draws of distinctly different varieties. Come to think of it, that actually means Arsene Wenger hasn’t beaten Alan Pardew in the League since Newcastle’s promotion last season. Clearly, this game cannot be taken lightly as the results haven’t been complete flukes.

A Monday night fixture did allow a couple of extra days of rest for the players. Some of those with niggles are also back (Arteta, Ramsey, Benayoun) while Santos is ready to return after his recuperation. That means Arsene can pick a strong side for this game and there can be no excuses for tardiness.

The back four were sensational against Milan and should not be changed. In the middle Arteta should take his place alongside Song and the reborn Rosicky. Van Persie will lead the line and the side. Arsene’s biggest decision is the choice of the wide players.

Does he go for two quick and direct wingers or will he sustain the recently renewed policy of playing a more technically adept midfielder on the flank? It’s a tough one.

Normally I’d go for the balance offered by a player who is more comfortable on the ball and can come inside to drift between the lines. It leads to better angles, better ball retention and movement, extra protection to the full-back, more control, and more intricate combination play. But Benayoun hasn’t really adapted to that role so playing him there doesn’t offer as many benefits. Plus it reduces the opportunities to go in behind as some pace is lost.

On the other hand, Gervinho has been inconsistent to say the least while Oxlade-Chamberlain is still developing and prone to making rookie mistakes.

In the end Arsene has to consider how Newcastle play and which qualities are more likely to be beneficial against them. I’d go with the following line-up,

Szczesny – Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Song, Rosicky, Arteta – Walcott, RvP, Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Having said that, I won’t be surprised if Arsene goes for Gervinho on the left or even Benayoun. Le Boss might even make the unpopular choice of starting Ramsey in the middle and shunting Rosicky to the left. I believe any side he picks can do the job if they can produce and maintain the tempo that we have seen in the last few home games.

Of course, a lot of that also depends on Newcastle’s approach. In Tiote and Cabaye, the Toon have combative and competent midfielders who can not only frustrate the Gunners but also pass the ball well enough to create chances for their attackers.

It will be interesting to see if Pardew picks two strikers for this game. That could give Arsenal greater space in the midfield but their forward pair does have the ability to test Arsenal’s back four. Ba in particular, but even Cisse based on recent evidence, has shown the ability to pounce on half-chances and to make the most of the space afforded to him.

Pushing both the full-backs up against two striker outfits has caused Arsenal some problems in recent games. And while the Gunners would back themselves to make another comeback, it would be prudent to play a tight game defensively.

Newcastle have conceded 24 goals in their 13 away games this season at nearly 2 goals per game. But those numbers are inflated by the 10 they’ve shipped on their last two visits to London. You could say it bodes well for the Gunners or you could believe they’re usually a tough team to score against. I’m more inclined to go with the latter thought. It won’t be easy to crack them open.

It’d be easy to say the Gunners should get more bodies into their box. But often it doesn’t work out when the opponents are on top of their defensive game. I strongly believe Arsenal’s ability to enter the Newcastle penalty box in numbers will define the nature and result of this fixture. Obviously, moving the ball at speed, pressing up the pitch, runs of the wide players, the midfielders’ influence on the game, and the contribution of the full-backs will all count towards the attacking impetus that the hosts can build.

Equally, Newcastle’s ability to retain their shape, to keep the ball in front of them, to slow down the forward passes by cutting the angles, and to break at speed will also have an impact on the quality of football that Arsenal can produce.

Howard Webb is the ref and that could mean a relatively ugly first half is in the offing. He’s the kind of official who lets certain fouls go unpunished early on before getting stricter as the game progresses. Such an approach sometimes makes it hard for sides to score early goals as play is broken up by opponents taking advantage of the ref’s leniency. But I also believe it doesn’t make a big enough impact to make it a valid excuse for a poor performance.

In defence, to state the obvious, Vermaelen and Koscielny will again have to perform at their best. The Frenchman, in particular, has had some struggles in recent games against physically strong strikers. He will have to hold his ground against an imposing guy like Dembe Ba.

This is a game where both young, upcoming goalkeepers could also have a say and as always set-pieces can make a difference.

When you put it all together though, there is little reason to believe this game will hold any major surprises. The side that can impose its tactical will on the game will get the result it deserves.

26 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Newcastle

  1. bamiro ayodele says:

    is going to be hard game 4 guners even with web, but my guners will win…….

  2. All we want is the three points, at least to close tottenham, all the players are back but don’t play djorou,chamake,squallica.

  3. Busayor says:


  4. Busayor says:

    It should be another 3 points for my beloved gunners again.let’s make happen cos we av scores to settle NUFC.too bad dat Barton wont be playing.@Busie93 follow me,I will follow back.all the way from Nigeria

  5. Amit says:

    good read…

    newcastle is always going to be a tough nut to crack…but its a home game and the crowd has been amazing off late, so that extra push will help a great deal!

  6. upthegooners says:

    can’t see us lose or even draw in this game, confidence is high and is only going to get higher, especially seeing spuds dropping points.

  7. kenecoaster says:

    Attack at pace. Counter attack at pace.Dont pass the ball back and forth 50 times and then wonder why theyve got 11 defenders on the 18 yard line

  8. Aussie Jack says:

    Agree with your line-up Desi, there are several variations that could do the job. The word I picked out in your article is `tempo`. When the Gunners up the `tempo` few can live with them, albeit for 45 minutes. If only they could sustain this.

    • VanTheManPersie says:

      there are no sides in the world that can keep that kind of tempo for 90 min as that is practically not possible. Not even barcelona, althought they come close, but their winning the ball back in the oppositions half has mroe to do with their shape and system and they way the stick to it rather than the raw energy level display we saw from the gunners.

      Having said that, the key is to play the high tempo game in bursts and score, much like Roger federer who works hard to break the opponent’s serve invariably when its 5-4 or 6-5. Prev arsenal sides would do that and kill off teams early in the first half and then ease off.
      As Wenger said, the defensive display is key for precisely the same reason, if u go for the jugular, u dont wanna be caught with the sucker punch. Then you are well spent already and are still havign all to do because of defensive errors. This will be a fascinating game and a win here is more difficult than the 3-0 vs Milan as
      a) AC milan didnt turn up for the first half, newcastle will
      b) Sir Schezzer cannot be expected to save you everytime and so we will not be as open as we were against AC. That in turn means the forwards will have to work harder to create chances. I want Ramsey on the bench for arsena’s home games as opponents will sit back for major parts of the game and he still doesnt move the ball fast enough. He can be a great sub later as he knows how to get into the box later in the game.

  9. Neyoomi says:

    Up Gunners.. i know the game will be a tough one.. but gunners will win and take all the three points…. gunners for life….

  10. boyo says:

    Note how this tempo has come since Ramsey got injured! Now there is talk of him playing? I am worried if he plays.

    • richie says:

      Ramsey is still young and will improve his game in time. He’s not up to fast visionary passing so playing him in a forward midfield position early in a match is not in our favor. I agree with Van the Man as a sub later on he’ll power into the oppositions box, but at the moment he slows our game. Arteta intercepts with his positioning, and keeps the ball moving, Song is our midfield defensive rock and Rosicky’s currently our creative hub. Like most people I’d play AOC and Theo because although Gervinho’s play is direct his eye for goal isn’t anywhere to be seen. I also agree we’ll need to move the ball at speed in the tempo we played Milan first half. Do that and we win!

  11. Dhruv says:

    Geordies are a tough nut to crack with hardworking players like Tiote, Gutierrez, Taylor,etc. who provide support in both defence and attack. Imposing the midfield is so important in this game. With Gervinho and Benayoun not looking great options, Ramsey could be the key to this game, and I think we should start Ramsey along with Rosicky. Ramsey is going to work his socks off and prove to be a menace up front. Some clinical finishing from RVP and probably Walcott will help us get the goals.

    Defensively I think we are well placed with Sagna, TV, and Kos who are sure to provide Ba and Cisse appropriate resistance. Gibbs needs to work hard to keep things moving on the left if Gervinho is missing. I predict a 2-0 win for the Gunners.

  12. wenger says:

    i’m very pleased santos back again… he’s like our hidding gun and can fire when we needed.. 4-1 for gunners..!!!!!

  13. Uwana Afia. says:

    Arsenal 5 vs Newcastle 0,dats ma predictn 2nyt.

  14. Manuel says:

    We will win there’s nothing webb’s going to do Up Gooner follow me on twitter my fellow gooners and nigerians @fantasticmanuel i will follow back

  15. gordian08 says:

    We owe newcastle a creaming, after the 1-0 at home THAT game, the last 0-0 draw which suspended 2 gervs and song for the man u and liuverpool games that we lost by a combine 10goals

  16. SAM says:

    NU aint easy to crack and in the two strikers have goals written all over them. The defence must be on top of their game like in the matches against Milan and Spurs.Against Liverpool the gunners were lucky not to have fallen behind at ht.
    I believe Pardew will play a cautious game becaues he knows attacking will give the gunners time and space. He may interrupt the gunners passing with robust challenges like what Sunderland did to his team.
    The gunners can win if they convert their chances and expect RVP to be hemmed in by two to three defenders.. That’s where the other gunners come in.

  17. Kunle fox says:

    Nice write up as always Desi,nice!..
    One sure thing is that if we play like we did against milan and spuds,show the spirit like the liverpool win…yeah we’ll’s also worthy to note that our recent performances against Newcastle have been marred by that annoying bully joey barton,the fool who isn’t there anymore tho i gotta say NUFC looks a better team than then buh above all we are Arsenal we getting 3pts..COYG
    you can rape the follow on twitter @kay_foxy..pls

  18. SAM says:

    The Newcastle game is an opportunity for Wenger to lay down a marker. In Dec and in previous seasons,the chances were there for the gunners to close on the league leaders and each time they failed spectacularly.Theis could be the final chance to close the gap on Spurs.
    Fluff it and the gap with the red faced and MC will be further widened until and unless Wenger changes his philosphy. If cl is not achieved this season,then Wenger should bow out.

    • richie says:

      Bullshit Sam! Qualifiy or not without Wenger our problems multiply. Its not that I can’t imagine a time without Arsene but we at Arsenal don’t change horses mid-stream very often, we like orderly transitions. Its not the Abromovich caos theory that opperates at the Emirates.

  19. Gerry Lennon says:

    I will shy away from a team prediction, having got my wrong thoughts wrong on AW tactics last time.
    However, I do think he will hold off playing AOC if possible. He had a particularly tough game against Milan, and as you have pointed out, the start of this game will see lots of strong tackles flying in. I want the Ox to be able to play until the end of the season, not get crocked now.
    So my guess is he will start with Gervinho, but if we get a goal up with 20 minutes to go I would like Santos to come on as an extra defender. 1-0 will do for me

  20. Sly says:

    The gunners will come out tops

  21. Dianjuh says:

    As ever nice pre-match analysis Desi, your my favorite.

    Newcastle are not always nice visitors at the Emirates but with the momentum we are on we should sail through whether the hard way or the easy way. 3 points is all we need from now to the end of the line……whether we do it the AC milan style or the Blackburn, or the Liverpool one…all we want is three points. Then after that we can finish 3rd, secure Podolski, Gotze and Vertoghen and you and I will be in a position where we cant wait 4 next season to start!!


  22. Borntobeagunner(btbag) says:

    Sam, this is not anti-wenger campaign article, maybe you should join liverpool and be their fan just for one month then, you will understand what a true fan looks like. Desi, the game might be a tough call but this time its a pay back time for all their dulgy escape and menace they have caused arsenal in the recent past. They play positive game now compare to then but then, its a positive thing for us. Spurs ripped them apart, thats the little part of us they have seen in spurs. Remember pundits were even tipping them to usurp us in the epl table. The last 7:1, 5:2, and 3:0 doesn’t look like a flash in the palm, does it? They wont concede less than 3 goals difference. Even Benayoun can be the key today but my trust in Wenger tells me he will put out a team that will treat newcastle the way we deserved to have treated them. Victoria Concordia Crescent. A 9ja Arsesnal Fan.

  23. richie says:

    What a Goal! What a result! What a game!
    MOTM Rosicky by a mile!
    Great performance Theo
    I think Daniel Levi should attempt to corner the market and earn himself another fortune………………..He should buy the toilet company velvet because with the Arse only one point “Behind” them (so to speak) I imagine a S*it load of soft tissue will be required.

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