- Untold Arsenal on Facebook here
- Arsenal History on Twitter @UntoldArsenal
By Phil Gregory
Arsenal return home after the second string fell to defeat in the Ukraine in midweek. An inconsistent Newcastle side are the guests at the Emirates, coming in off the back of an impressive 5-1 derby win. I was fortunate enough to be able to pick the brain of Rhys my Geordie mate before writing this article, so Untold have the inside track included in the match preview.
I’m not surprised to see the four absentees for the Donetsk game come back for the weekend’s match. Wenger stated that it would have been “impossible” for Denilson, Cesc and Song to play but I’m convinced had it been a semi final in the Champions League, the “impossible” would have merely been considered “a gamble”. Not that that is a criticism of Wenger: given our propensity to pick up injuries he took the prudent course in a game that we could afford to rotate in.
The result was disappointing, as it always is when we lose, however from seeing the team that we were taking to Ukraine the result didn’t come as too much of a shock (it’s very rare that I ever predict us not to win a match!). At the end of the day, we were playing away against a strong side and the midfield in particular was depleted. To lose is always disappointing, but plenty of positives should be taken from a solid overall performance from the second string.
Gibbs and Diaby are both out of the Newcastle game, with the condition of the latter causing some real concern. He hasn’t been seen since being assaulted by Robinson in the Bolton match, and has apparently seen a couple of surgeons who are totally mystified by his ankle injury. Of course, the challenge wasn’t even worthy of a free kick according to the referee despite being one of the worst lunges I’ve seen for a while…
Fabregas is facing fitness test but is expected to start according to Wenger. If there’s any concern whatsoever he’s likely to appear on the bench given his importance to the team’s season. With Jack back into midfield, Nasri could play the Cesc role and we wouldn’t be short of creativity in the middle of the park. Song’s back, Denilson is fit after a midweek absence and Arshavin is over his virus too. Van Persie has returned to training just in time for Dutch national team (surely in the interests of maintaining good club – country relations at the very least they shouldn’t call him up?)
All in all that leads me to predict a line-up of:
Sagna Squillaci Koscielny Clichy
Walcott Chamakh Arshavin
The back five is as you’d expect given the injuries and taking into account the rotation for the game in Ukraine. Wilshere will likely return to Premier League action after his suspension and will take up a deep lying position next to Song, who’ll hold.
Hopefully Cesc will be passed fit to start in midfield, if not Nasri will be the likely replacement. After his goal in midweek I’d expect Theo to go wide right, Arshavin on the left and Chamakh up front. There’ll be no shortage of options on the bench, with Rosicky, Vela and Bentdner all available to be brought on.
And now to Newcastle. Their first choice keeper Harper is out, so young Dutchman Tim Krul steps in. Despite a lack of experience with the Newcastle first team (he’s barely featured for them in the league, despite a season in the Championship last year) he’s done well during his current stint in the starting eleven.
Simpson and Enrique will continue as their fullbacks, the latter of whom has really come on since his last spell in the Premier League. Argentinian international Coloccini and former Portsmouth stopper Williamson will complete the back four for Newcastle. Kevin Nolan comes into the game after a hat trick against Sunderland.
The ex-Bolton man has proved to be a key figure for Newcastle since his transfer in January 2009, despite an initially mixed reception from the Toon Army. Joey Barton is another likely midfield starter for Newcastle, coming into the game after a solid start to the season. Guttierez should be on the right, with Barton on the left and new signing Tioté anchoring the midfield.
Up front the much talked-about Andy Carroll will partner Shola Ameobi. Carroll is certainly a divisive figure, and he’s not really my cup of tea. He’s made a reasonable start to his Premier League career, getting amongst the goals and generally performing well. Courtesy of his nationality and the fact he isn’t very old, a few decent performances (one of which was admittedly a hat trick against Villa) culminated in calls for an England call-up. For me, he still has much to prove and will struggle to forge more than a mediocre top flight career for himself unless he can keep off-field distractions to a minimum.
That would mean Newcastle lining up in 442, which gives them plenty of options if they intended to play a pressing game with an eye on our ability on the ball. 451 is often considered a “defensive” formation but I don’t tend to agree, as with just one up front you have no chance to press from the front effectively. It’s really a possession formation, seeking to win the midfield battle with the extra man and defend by holding onto the ball. Playing 442 instead, they’ll be intending to give us something to think about, and perhaps make us more cautious in attack with that in mind. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how our defensive midfielders’ roles pan out.
Newcastle are by no means a bad side, but given our returnees and home advantage, I’d be disappointed if we didn’t win by at least a two goal margin. Predictions are made more difficult by their inconsistency of performance, and I’m torn between 3-1 or 2-0.
We’re certainly capable of putting a few past them given the scoreline in the Carling Cup, but I’ll hope for a clean sheet and put my neck out on the block at 2-0 to the Arsenal.
The Xmas present for the fan with a brain: Making the Arsenal: available from Amazon.co.uk but for a signed copy dedicated to whoever you want just order from the publishers (follow the link) and add details of the dedication wanted to your order.
Untold Arsenal Index: silly stuff, serious stuff, and stuff
- Arsenal v the team that will present a giant toothbrush to our captain
- Arsenal squad for Europa League game
- The abuse of female footballers is appalling, but there is a wider context
- Why Arsenal v Glimt might be tougher than the game against Tottenham
- Is the team that passes the most, the team that gets the best results?