Arsenal vs. Newcastle (03/01/23) – Game preview
Tomorrow we will play one of the most anticipated games of the season. Two teams with young and talented managers with significant, yet not unlimited budget, focusing on smart transfers rather than spending huge on already established world class players. Still, I will not say this is one of the most critical games Arsenal face, as I am confident of a home win.
I’m not usually that optimistic – in fact I expect to gather 0 points from our 2 games against Manchester City (feel free, TA, to censure that remark) – but we are in a great form, they are slightly on the descend, we play home with almost the full squad available while Newcastle will miss main hitman Isak as well as Targett from their strongest line-up.
However, this post is not about my expectations or predictions (2:0 by the way), but a short analysis of the opposition. Based on the reception, it could become a returning column ahead of the PL games in the season, but let’s not look that far just now.
Newcastle is a popular club in England. Partly because they are currently the only PL club in a surprisingly large area, partly because they have an English-players-heavy squad. Their last silverware came from the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup back in 1969, but they had 3 FA Cup and 1 League Cup runner-up performance since. Even when they were in the top tier, they were rarely a top half team – not to mention being a top-6 contender – but this is expected to change this year, as per the upgraded circumstances: new owners, money invested in the squad and a talented manager started to bear fruits. We will play some close games with them, but let’s hope it will not happen tomorrow.
The most valuable players are Bruno Guimarães, Alexander Isak and Allan Saint-Maximin, but Isak is injured. Saint-Maximin plays for the Magpies for 4 years and was a smart transfer back than, but Bruno is the real deal (like White or Gabriel M.) it was a genius move to sign him even for 42M, and similarly was a genius move for Bruno to select Newcastle – even though Arsenal was reported to be courting him.
The most consistently performing Newcastle players this season are Kieran Trippier (the best RB in the PL, another smart transfer from both parties), the above mentioned Bruno, Joelinton, Miguel Almirón and Fabian Schär. Out of the 17 games Newcastle had played in the PL this season (W:9, D:7, L:1) their players were nominated MotM 13 times. That is 7 players with a single award, and Trippier with 6!
Formation-wise Newcastle is the easiest team to predict. They always play 4-3-3, and they rarely switch with mid-game substitutions. They have a really tall squad (like an old-school British club), so they love attacking set pieces where both attackers (Isak, Wood) and defenders (Botman, Burn) are aerial threats. Thank god we have Saliba and Gabriel who both are anti-aircraft towers when needed. On the other hand they are not really strong in ‘general striker duty’ with Woods and Isak both scoring twice, Wilson 6 times and all of them being caught offside countless of times. Their most clinical scorer is Almiron with 9, who is having his best year with the club, while Trippier (4), Guimaraes and Saint-Maximin (3-3) are leading the assist chart.
It also shows inefficiencies from the striking department that they scored only 5 goals from the 6-yard box compared to a 9.4 xG, while out of the penalty area they scored 8 while the corresponding xG was only 2.5! They scored 5 times from corners, which is quite remarkable, and Trippier is dangerous from direct free kicks. If we can neuter that then we are favorite to win the game, though. Newcastle scored the most goals (8 and 7 respectively) in the beginning of the second half and the end of the first half – so practically the middle of the game). While out of the 11 games they conceded, nine came in the second half, so they might be prone to fatigue or concentration lapses.
Since 2018 we have been winning all eight of our encounters with the Toons, apart from our very last, the 2:0 defeat at St. James’ Park that practically lost us the desired top-four finish. However we are on a five-games winning streak in the PL, while Newcastle just ended theirs with a draw against Leeds a couple of days back.
So how can we beat the Magpies now? Well, for a cliché answer: with dedication, hard work and luck. J
But if we want to go a level deeper, I think we should favour attacks in the middle and on the right, as Martinelli will face Trippier and Schär, two from the best in-form defenders in the entire Premier League. Let’s forget about high crosses from the byline, as Botman, Burn and Pope are really tall. So apart from corners, I wouldn’t bank on high balls into the penalty box. Yet, some of their old guard are more athletic than actually technical, so dribbling and 1-2 passes could be an efficient weapon against players like Longstaff, Lascelles, Murphy, Burn or Lewis. We should target their right flank, and play with short and quick passes as Pope is efficient against long shots and has great reflexes. I won’t mind if Odegaard becomes MotM for the 3rd time in a row, as Newcastle is an opponent that suits his strengths, and he is in an otherworldly form right now.
I’m not even wasting your time with a predicted line-up, as we all know that if possible Arteta will send the same XI to the pitch, which is not bad seeing the record-breaking run. Yet I would consider starting Tierney ahead of Zinchenko, as Oleks might be eager to press and support the attacks, while the key threat might be coming from Trippier. What we should take care of, tough, is that Saka and Saliba are on 4 yellow cards, and if they get booked today they will miss the NLD on the 15th of January. But if they stay sober/disciplined in January the yellow card count will be reset.
The 2:0 prediction might seem like a conservative estimation, but let’s not forget that Newcastle conceded the least goals in the league, and that 11 is almost 8 less than the quality of the attempts, so they have a good GK and some quality defenders.
By Peter Barany