I’ve always had a soft spot for Newcastle United: they have a great loyal supporter base, are good to watch, and Bergkamp scored the best goal ever against them!
I’d like to start by apologising to Tim Krul for some of the words I said about him last time we met. For those who can’t remember this is what happened:
Yes, he did start time wasting very early on; yes, I hate when keepers do it, but I just wish he had of belted up Brave Sir Robin after the game. Then again, perhaps I should be more respectful when talking about Robin because according to Fergie he died during the Swansea game (thank you Ashley Williams).
(Just for those who missed it or need a good laugh. I did notice his accidental slip and todger grab also)
Anyway, back to the game!
Replacing Chris Hughton, after he had just brought Newcastle back in to the league, was always going to be a tough task, but until recently Alan Pardew had done it with perfection. They started last season like a house on fire: ‘who cares we all thought’, ‘they’ll drop off soon’. Well they did not, they finished 5th on the table, ahead of Chelsea, which is to be commended. Pardew has a bit of Arsene in him, with his eye for talented bargains; just look who he has signed since he’s joined the club:
Ba, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Cisse, and Santon: that list is definitely not to be scoffed at.
Newcastle are an organised bunch who like to sit back defensively and hit you on the counter. I know what you’re thinking ‘yak, our least favourite tactic to play against’. It worked well against Man U and Liverpool, not to mention all last season, however, they are missing key personnel who contribute enormously to this tactic.
Missing in Action:
Arsenal: Rosicky returns, Diaby (thigh) is apparently back next week, Santos returns, leaving only Fabianski (ankle) on the long term injury list.
Newcastle: Ben Arfa (hamstring), Cabaye (groin), Gutierrez (leg), Ryan and Steven Taylor. Williamson may not come up for this one. Tiote returns from his one match ban.
An opposition with a bigger injury list than ours…yep it’s true I just pinched myself and their troubles remain. It is a shame, though, because it really has wreaked their season, then again it has done worse to ours in the past.
Optimistically, I am hoping we do not see Theo start in the middle again. He’s been okay the last two games, but we need better than okay. To me he walks around like Henry, you know; with a bit of a swagger. He doesn’t bust a lung, he doesn’t chase, and most of all he has not earned that right! He tends to time his runs too soon leaving the midfielders with no outlet and he gets muscled off the ball too easily. I’m hoping Giroud slips back in to test the average Williamson (Santi and Ox should try their best to attack him at all costs); just like Bendtner did a couple of seasons back.
The rest of the team picks itself really.
Arsenal 2 – Newcastle 1
Some guy scored for us and then Vermaelen scored a ripper of a goal with seconds remaining on the clock. Some guy got in a tussle afterwards, the noise coming from the fans was immense.
Newcastle 0 – Arsenal 0
Joey Barton dived and made an arse of himself (what’s new), Gerv got sent off, Song got banned for stupidly stamping on him, but hugged him afterwards anyway. Poor game, and not the start we wanted for the season.
Not going to go into the 4-4 draw.
Form Guide (all competitions): Arsenal: WWLWL Newcastle: LWLLL
Despite our Cup blip, we are coming off our third premier league win on the trot. If we are a serious team with grand aspirations we must continue to perform. Teams around us won’t continually slip up leaving the door ajar for us to climb up the ladder; ‘Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect’, and I feel this is the case for us: let’s make our own future, I don’t give a stuff about other teams, I don’t want to watch other teams praying to Dennis that they slip up! Time to go on a tear, and have another unbeaten run!
Newcastle took the lead at Old Trafford not once, not twice, but three times yet did not leave with a solitary point for all their effort. They put up a prodigious showing, but in true Man United fashion they were out scraped by the final whistle. Despite their valiant showing they sit on a paltry 20 points (5 off relegation zone) and have lost 7 of their last 9 matches. Interesting to note that Newcastle have not won their previous 15 away games.
One to Watch:
Jack the Lad: He recently signed a long term deal with the club and really is a joy to watch. He isn’t afraid to do the dirty things no one else wants to, and cops it from the opposition week in and week out. That’s okay though, not even a kick to the plums could keep him down! If he continues on the right path this bloke is easily going to be a legend in the making. The best thing of all is, I couldn’t care less if he has a stinker, because if he does I can rest easy knowing he still gave 110%. Look for him to take control of the midfield in this one.
I will be keeping a watchful eye on Ba throughout the match. Not only because he is a dangerous forward who could trouble our defence, but because he may be joining Arsenal in the future. He would definitely add to our squad (that I’m sure of), I just hope he has a stinker and doesn’t touch the ball in this fixture!
The Demba Senegalese duo:
12/13: 11 goals in 18 (1) games (only behind Michu and BSR)
Papiss Demba Cisse
Only scored 3 goals this season thus far but managed to score 13 goals in 13 matches last season for Newcastle.
Both are top notch strikers and capable of brilliance (Cisse’s goal last season against Chelsea was amazing!), but unfortunately for Newcastle they do not really know how to work together. Last season Ba was on fire, he could do no wrong -> He jetted off to the African Cup of Nations -> In came Cisse -> He went on a tear -> Ba came back -> Cisse continued his form, Ba didn’t and went quiet -> Season ends -> Ba kicks in to gear again, Cisse does not -> What can Pardew do? It’s the same sort of position I feel Arsenal would have been in if we brought in Huntelaar. He’s too similar to Giroud, separate they are class players, together…not so much.
Let’s hope these two don’t click against us. If they do, Vermaelen and Mertesacker will have to be on their toes. The loss of Ben Arfa will definitely help quell their influence.
The Media! The transfer window hasn’t begun yet but already we are being linked with every striker on the planet. It has gotten to the point where every defender, keeper, striker, winger, attacking and defensive midfielder, and some kids have been linked with us at one time or another. Loose sources, friends of friends, twisted quotes, money hungry players, ‘Arsenals bazillion dollar war-chest’, and of course the Theo Walcott Saga. It really is enough to drive a man bonkers. The sad thing is I’ll still be there every morning and night scouring the Arsenal/transfer news sites sitting and hoping (or swearing at Theo). Damn you media…damn you to hell!
Pre-Match pat on the back:
This week’s pat on the back is a two parter.
Firstly I’d like to thank the tube strike for being responsible for postponing our match against West Ham. Yes it was terrible not having a Boxing Day match to watch but it has been a welcome break for the team, and after the food I consumed on Christmas a bear-like hibernation period was needed. It allowed our first teamers a chance to freshen over a normally busy fixture period. We go in to the match fresh as a daisy (still think we should rotate the squad more often so we are fresher more often) whereas Newcastle come in after a 4-3 slog in the wet against Man United…big benefit!
Secondly (I can’t believe I’m saying this) I’d like to give a pat on the back to the Medical team. It’s been a long, LONG time since we have had such an empty sick bay (not to jinx it of course). I’m not going to get too carried away though because unfortunately the ghost of Diaby haunts the area and I’m sure he will be getting withdrawal symptoms soon enough! Here’s to good health…long may it prosper!
Heck I’m going with one more. Alan Pardew deserves one too; I like how he goes about it!
‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead. This week the answers were kindly provided by Paul from www.nufcblog.org , and Kev from http://www.newcastleunited-mad.co.uk.
1) What are your thoughts on the Demba Ba situation?
Paul: Most of the stuff in the media about it is just wild speculation; hence I don’t pay much attention to it. However, the basic situation is that while Mike Ashley (the owner of Newcastle United) wants top players, he wants them for 50% off like the cheap tat in his Sports Direct shops and that includes their wages too. This is how the whole Demba Ba situation has come about, and why Ba and his advisors cling on to his release clause. His knee problem is the complicating factor for a move however, and if it wasn’t for that he’d probably be long gone by now. Then again, if it wasn’t for his knee problem he almost certainly wouldn’t be at Newcastle United in the first place.
Ba knows that his career may be limited by a few years and he wants to make the most of it financially but there isn’t much chance of that at Newcastle, but although a lot of other clubs will undoubtedly show keen interest in such a good striker, they will cool off when they look at the medical reports and try to insure him etc. This is probably why the situation has dragged on for so long and if he does move for a much higher weekly wage, he would almost certainly have to take some kind of “quid pro quo” which will involve little compensation if he was injured and out of the game for good.
Kev: His agent is after £2m on any transfer, and he is the one pulling the strings.
Great player, superb skills as an individual – but not a team player – and not the brightest button in the box.
2) Who has been Newcastle’s best player so far this season? What is he capable of?
Paul: Hatem Ben Arfa who scored an excellent goal against your lot last time. He’s capable of unlocking teams on his own with his amazing dribbling, the vision of his passing, his excellent long shots and so on. However, he won’t be playing so I’ll also pick Demba Ba for this game. This is because he has been feeding on crumbs this season because of the lack of creativity in the side (from the manager not the players). Despite this he is still one of the highest scorers in the Premier League which is a bit of a miracle, and a tribute to his superb finishing.
Kev: Probably Ba in my opinion. Loads have under-achieved being played out of position because of Pardew’s weird system.
3) What formations and tactics are you most likely to employ in this match?
Paul: That’s a good question with Newcastle at the moment. Alan Pardew had had us playing some awful “route one” football for most of the season so far, the kind of football he’s used to. The tactics were mostly a 4-4-2 where we had no midfield and were soaking up pressure in our own half looking to dispossess the opposition, only to launch huge “hit and hope” balls over a midfield void to the strikers which usually fell back to the opposition anyway. However, there seems to have been some kind of player revolt recently and although there have still been defeats in the last few games, two of these have been against the Manchester giants and performances and style of play have improved markedly for the most part. So now you can probably expect to see a 4-3-3 formation with a far more subtle and patient approach through the midfield. In the unlikely event that we go a couple of goals up though, expect Pardew to revert to type.
Kev: Depends who is available. Tactics change weekly with Pardew.
4) What position/player is your weakness link?
Paul: If I must, then James Perch might be filling in for an injured Willamson at Centre Back. Now don’t get me wrong, the lad’s done very well from humble beginnings, especially in the defensive midfield. However he might be a little vulnerable in the air in the centre of defence, though this might benefit teams like Stoke more than Arsenal.
Kev: Everywhere. Injuries have halted any hope of a regular team/formation.
5) What has happened to Newcastle this season?
Paul: See the rant at question 3! Though there have also been issues like Mike Ashley not investing in the squad for European football, along with injuries and such, I still think that the main factor has been Alan Pardew’s Reading circa 1990 tactics. He is one of those managers like many before him who has a good season then gets found out, like he did at West Ham.
Kev: We have been clueless in so many matches. Players playing out of position, and kids not good enough.
Ba and Cisse don’t work as a team; defence is like the days of Titus Bramble.
6) Which Arsenal player would you love in your team and why?
Paul: Santi Cazorla for similar reasons to Ben Arfa. Both are great visionary playmakers and although I’ll just give the dribbling to Benny (his control is amazing), on the other hand one thing about Cazorla is that even though he’s only about 5′ 6″ he’ll muck in and defend more than Benny when the team are up against it. Both are fantastic, world class players.
Kev: About nine or ten of them – different class to us.
7) What is your match prediction?
Paul: I would say that Arsenal are favourites and will probably win, but as I’ve been so negative in parts above, I’ll be optimistic and say that if we perform as well as we have in patches of recent games then we just might get a draw, so I’ll go for a Desmond 2-2 (though my head says 2-1 or 3-1 to Arsenal).
Kev: 2-0 Arsenal.
Newcastle is a tough team to break down. Their defence is strong and Krul is a very good, up and coming keeper, with something to prove after our last encounter. Nevertheless, they are a shadow of their former selves, injuries have blighted their squad and the Ba/Cisse duo isn’t firing. We will have to fight tooth and nail in this one, but I expect a resurgent and rested Arsenal to run over the top off a flat and soggy Newcastle.
2-0 to the good guys.
Written by: Oz Gunner.