Rambo, Xhaka and Mesut to Zip the Barcodes: Arsenal v Newcastle Preview


Our last competitive match of a hectic schedule was on Thursday March 14th against Rennes. The inter-lull that followed afforded every member of our 1st team squad a change of environment excellent for refreshing the psyche. After such breaks, appetite for the “chores” won’t to be renewed, though invariably some cobwebs appear needing some dusting.

We were in a commanding form before the inter-lull. On their return to base, Emery’s immediate task would have been to get the boys quickly back to speed so as to keep riding the wave of the momentum as if there was never a break. I guess that wouldn’t require much from him beyond urging the boys in training to pass the ball quicker, to run faster and to jump higher. The goal: to reconnect them to their motor reflex memory.

Will he succeed? These boys are hungry. They know that every match from now on is a cup final and that there is no margin for error. Newcastle is an in-form team, managed by the experienced Rafa Benitez. Take them for granted and live to regret it.

Emery has done a lot of tinkering over the season and rightly so seeing that for him it is a new team and a new league. It now looks like it’s all crystallized for him. The team that waltzed through Rennes was the same team (cup keeper and Mustafi for suspended Sokratis apart) that spanked the top-form team, Man United. Is there any need changing a winning team? I don’t think so unless the changes are forced. But that is me. Emery likes responding to his analysis of opposing teams and what he comes up with might depend on what he thinks Benitez will do.

Benitez has been very pragmatic with his approach to games. He will come to the Emirate determined to deny Arsenal a goal. Expect the same 5:4:1 formation he has used against the bigger teams. With a draw, he has inched further away from relegation but Emery wouldn’t be in any mood to oblige him. Unai would respond by wanting to control the game and be patient with chances. That could make him revert to the 4:2:3:1 formation. If we score early the game would open up and that should add to our advantage. The Emirate finds its best voice when it is an open game.

Monreal and Ramsey, who were slight doubts, are back to full training. Though Xhaka was not in the injured list mentioned by our medical staff, he remains a doubt particularly as the recent team pictures did not capture him in training. My gut feeling is that he will be starting.

Predicted line up:-






Bench:- Cech, Mustafi, Lichsteiner, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Suarez, Aubamayang

With the Spurs losing, Man U and Chelsea sneaking their wins this weekend only 1pt now separates the four teams jostling for the remaining two Champions League spot, though Arsenal have this Newcastle match in hand. Nothing could be tighter. We dare not lose this one, not when it is at home. Let us suck to death the morale of the visitors with 90 minutes of full support for our team.


By PE.

24 thoughts on “Rambo, Xhaka and Mesut to Zip the Barcodes: Arsenal v Newcastle Preview

  • Thanks for the preview PE!
    Had the notion with few of our regulars in action for 17 days, that it was both a respite– and just enough activity to heal (whatever) and keep a bit of sharpness. Somewhat ambivalent to the lineup– as Emery can stump all of us with his choice of tactics and personnel. Except– for Auba. With 17 goals and 4 assists in the PL– sits among Salah, Sane, and Kane– just below Aguero (19/7). Auba’s rate bests them all with 1 every 130mins. He’s got to be on the pitch– with Laca, IMO.

    Overall? Here we are. At the business-end of the season. A season’s-end few expected realistically.
    One that had a ‘wonderland feel’ to it over an early 22-match stretch. A level patch to follow– with UE then learning the tricks and traps of the festive period. A (seeming) null transfer window after. Making a way through as Europa quarterfinalists. Who would have thunk it. Arsenal holding destiny in their hands.

    Unai Emery inherited a knot so tangled, for so long.
    Solving it might call for lionizing. Gordie? Unai the Great? 😉

    Be wary though, thinking Newcastle is prey. Mostly consistent since late January with a 5-2-2 run (including Man City’s scalp). Solomon Rondon has 2 in two. Gunner nemeses Ayoze Perez with a recent brace– and DeAndre Yedlin a handful whenever he sees us.

    Stay front footed Gunners!


  • jw, excellent back-up comment. 5-2-2 is no mean run. Yes, Auba on the bench always a tough call but just thinking if he comes in 2nd half when N’Castle have lost part of their positional discipline and probably a goal or two down, would afford him the spaces he craves for. That said I’d be equally delighted seeing him start. It is a must win game.

  • PE

    Great post!

    For the sake of discussion, what about the two up front? With an Ozil pivot? Basically 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 ? I.e. more attacking than patient? IMO, if you want goals ahead and pressure, perhaps start with it and see if you can’t stop it before it gets started, so to speak…

    Just my 35p — jgc

  • Jgc … yours might be the bull’s eye. The Laca/Auba combo works. Laca upsets the defenders to Auba’s benefit.
    I’ve been privy to a certain big coach who stayed up all night trying to figure out which of two players he had to start. Just one position to fill cost him the night!

  • Thanks for a fine preview, PE. 🙂
    I like the line-up except for Ramsey next to Xhaka. For me it should be Torreira as we simply cannot afford to hope for luck to be on our side. We gave away a lot of opportunities against the Mancs and had they been a bit more lucky/lethal it could have finished differently. I like what Ramsey adds to our attacking play but I reckon we don’t need it as much as many think, especially with Ozil, Iwobi and Mkhi also on the pitch. Getting the midfield balance right will be THE defining factor for finishing in the top four this season (and winning a cup), and I am still worried, especially with big, difficult away games to come v Everton, Watford, Wolves and Leicester.

    I agree with leaving Auba on the bench and planning for a deadly impact in the second half. Emery can bring on both Ramsey and Auba to change, or finish off, the game. We must find a balance between playing compact and not letting the Barcodes in early on (luck swings in both ways) AND playing with the right intensity and sense of purpose. Your starting 11 (minus Ramsey for Torreira) should just do this.

  • Skipped your mind TA that Torreira has served only one match of his three match ban.

  • Fine preview, PE. I also think after tinkering with the selection and trying to stamp his authority (alienating the team’s star in Ozil, for instance) on the team, Emery has finally settled for his main 11 (or 14) he now trusts to deliver his desired performance and results. It includes your selection above and a variant of whether Laca & Auba, or Laca/Auba; Iwobi and Mkhi, or Mkhi/Auba and Monreal and Kolasinac, or Monreal/Kolasinac. He is in a good place and it seems he’s gotten that group very focused on the goal.

    It is in our hands now and one can only imagine the banter if the boys fail to nail a place in the top 4 now. Personally, I feel they would but accept that Watford, Wolves, Everton and Leicester won’t be easy places to go to and get the wins; however, that’s what it’s all about: fight! They will fight to make this happen. The fans need to get behind the team, no matter the situation, home or away and we’ll see where it takes us.

    As for the selection today, it’s hard to read Emery but from what I’ve gleaned from him, he will throw it all on Rafa’s team today: Auba, Laca, Ozil, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Am-N… the truckload. The likes of Iwobi and Guendouzi will come on later…

  • PE, thanks for the link. I couldn’t read the full article without registering with the Telegraph. Even that process seems to have a glitch, at the moment so I will have to seek out the article some other way.

  • Eris,

    Interesting. Newcastle are well down the table, and of late, it seems UE likes to throw the entire attacking kitchen sink at such teams. So, maybe!

    At least we are kept interested and surprised each week? 🙂

    Cheers — jgc

  • One surprise could be Suarez to start. Emery has been talking about him and I imagine it’s a bone in his throat, taking him on loan and not starting him enough. However, he has to be realistic and not gamble by playing a guy who hasn’t settled well into it. We await the team sheets.

  • Looks like Xhaka’s injury is more serious than we let on. I worry about balance in midfield as the team sheet shows:

    Arsenal XI: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Iwobi, Ozil, Lacazette

    Subs: Cech, Jenkinson, Elneny, Suarez, Mkhitaryan, Nketiah, Aubameyang

    Newcastle XI: Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Ritchie, Hayden, Diame, Almiron, Perez, Rondon.

    Subs: Darlow, Manquillo, Fernandez, Kenedy, Ki, Shelvey, Muto

  • Koscielny too is out, so in goes (fans’ favourite villain) Mustafi. Guendouzi has to stay in position and being caught on the ball in dangerous situations. Still, it is a team good enough to beat Newcastle.

  • So– this must be the lineup Emery was considering–
    when he stated we’ll win ’em 5-4 if we have to!
    Just score the five Gunners.
    (Oh, and please Lord keep Shkodran upright today? 🙄 )


  • Hahahaha! I see Hayden is on for them. He will be looking to let us see what we missed not giving him chances in our first team. Diame chooses games against us to do the spectacular; hopefully, not today.

    Come on, lads. Just do it!

  • 1-0 at half time and it could have been 3 (Ramsey’s disallowed goal and that Laca swivel and shoot moment). They are making us work hard which was not unexpected, if you ask me. My worry is we probably need the comfort of a second, as the longer they stay in it, the more nervy things will become.

    It’s a shame how a player on his way out is working his socks off and willing to run himself to the ground while a couple of our lads with a longer term stake look lethargic at times. He will be missed for those runs into the goal area. Kolasinac may be playing to instruction but I prefer him tearing down the flanks and whipping them in. Iwobi needs to pose more of a threat or Auba will be coming on for him soon. Also looking to see Mkhi and Elneny (if we have some security). This game isn’t over yet until we do put it to bed.

  • Who is looking lethargic?!
    Very good first half. Really taking the game to them and all working hard to keep the tempo high and break the busses open.

  • Thankfully, for today, we also have Anthony Taylor behind us.
    Newcastle were surprisingly passive. Rafa must dislike Spuds too.


  • TA, not sure Am-N was running a lot; Laca maybe was well watched by the opposition CBs (Lascelles, in particular), but I have seen him give it more. In any case, spoken in the heat of the moment and all’s forgiven now we’ve won. 😀

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