This is it. The final
day of the season and Champions League qualification rests on this result. If
we win: we qualify – and depending on Chelsea’s result against Everton we may
have a third place playoff decider. (Although that is very unlikely.) If we don’t
win, it falls into the hands of them down the road. I don’t even want to think
about that though.
We last beat Newcastle United at St James’ Park in 2009; a 3-1 win, with goals from Nickas Bendtner, Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri, and even included a fine penalty save from Manuel Almunia.
Our trips up North have always
proved testing, but with Newcastle now safe from relegation they have nothing to
play for. Nonetheless, their squad is one with immense talent. I am a big
admirer of Davide Santon and Yohan Cabaye, although their whole squad has underperformed
this season and have only just steered clear of relegation.
Our last meeting
with Newcastle at St James’ Park finished a rather uninspiring 0-0. This time
around however I see nothing other than an Arsenal win although, I will admit I
said the same about Wigan Athletic and at half time I was slightly concerned. The
performance in the second half I’m pleased to say diminished any fears I had.
We’ve clocked up an impressive 23 points from our last nine games and havevwon the last
four away from home, albeit in not the best fashion. That said, we wouldn’t
have won those games last year and I am pleased to see that we have started to
grind out results especially away from home. I think this is in no part down to
the blend of experience we now have within the squad, namely Per Mertesacker, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta.
I have had tedious arguments with friends in regards to
Mertesacker. We all know he’s not the quickest guy over 10 yards… hell, I’d
back my nan to outpace him over 25 yards!… but his simple passing out from the
back and safety first approach is fine with me. He is a rock and it is no
surprise to me that Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are unbeaten in their last
17 starts together, winning 10 and drawing seven. With Olivier Giroud back from
suspension, I’d expect to see him on the bench. Lukas Podolski had a quiet but
effective game against Wigan, scoring twice and did enough to retain his place
in the starting XI for me.
The decision to give
Alan Pardew an eight-year contract was met at the time with plaudits from the
footballing world that a manager could be trusted to build and mould a football
team without fear of the ever present axe from above – now, however, that could
prove to be a foolish move from Newcastle. I believe that Pardew has done all
he can at Newcastle and agree with Karen Brady that he does this with all of
the clubs he has managed. Pardew comes in, makes a few signings and the squad
play good football for a season or two; then the slump sets in and his teams go
downhill fast. I wonder what the reaction would be should Arsene Wenger be handed an 8-year deal?
We all know the
ramifications of not finishing fourth. It would put a real dent in our
ambitions of signing proven quality, not to mention the pockets of the club.
I’ve seen some fans state they hope we don’t qualify for the Champions League
in the hope it makes the club realise just how far we are from competing for
the Premier League again. If we don’t qualify, I strongly believe it would be
the start of a Liverpool-esque situation that will see us slide slowly but
surely down the league for a good few years. It is imperative we get behind the
team. Our away support is the best in the land and
I know the travelling boys will be in full song come tomorrow at 4pm.
Possible Starting Lineups –
Arsenal Subs From
Martínez, Jenkinson, Monreal, Yennaris, Miquel, Vermaelen, Squillaci, Coquelin,
Gnabry, Oxlade-Chamberlin, Arshavin, Giroud, Arteta
Newcastle Subs From
Amalfitano, Perch, Williamson, Bigirimana, Anita, Campbell, Sammy Ameobi,
(ankle, Aug), Diaby (knee, Dec)
Newcastle Shola Ameobi (knee, Aug), Vuckic (knee, Aug),
Haïdara (hamstring, Aug), Krul (shoulder, Aug), Sissoko (knee,
Aug), R Taylor (knee, Aug 2013)
Betting Tips –
- The last four meetings between these sides have seen 21 goals scored at an average of over 5 a game.
- SkyBet price Newcastle at 5/1 and Coral price us at 4/7 (best prices).
- Arsenal have not conceded in their last five away games out of seven.
- Both teams have not scored at St. James’ park in the last four out of five games.