Arsenal vs. Newcastle United – Premier League preview
So, after our adventures in Dubai, we’re back at home with our returning international stars. The interlull is dead; long live the top four/Europa League run-in.
We face Newcastle United, and both we and they have points to gain for two differing reasons.
We’ve had some memorable games vs. the Toon in PL history at least. Just speaking of the home games, there was a noted League Cup Quarter-Final in 1996 in which Ian Wright (Wright Wright) starred. Vieira scored a screamer against them in the first Wenger Double season, and even Andy Carroll gained a record transfer fee to Liverpool in part because he scored a winner vs. us.
For the Toon, they need the points to stay in the Premier League.
Their boss, Rafa Benitez, is a manager of proven quality. But many of the issues of their club remain unresolved since owner Mike Ashley is keeping the club as much as he’s buying up failed High Street retailers. They went down a few years ago, and Ashley got them back up, but will he do it again? Who knows? What Rafa needs to do though is keep them up, to ensure they get the PL’s riches and revenues.
So the Toon, and Rafa, will have some kind of plan to nullify us. This won’t be an easy game, by any stretch.
For us though, we need the top four again. And the Toon knows that our attacking prowess is world-class. Our home form is very good – and we’ve taken up points from Chelsea, Tottenham, and United at home to boot. Only Liverpool and Man City at this point have better home records.
Our friends with their new shiny home in the Borough of Haringey play Liverpool, and if the Scouser Reds show up and beat Tottenham, we could go above them should we beat the Toon.
So it’s a six-pointer in a way, though we should possess the quality to overcome them.
We’re also in a top four race with Manchester United, who beat Watford on Saturday to go above us, and Chelsea, who face Cardiff City away in a couple of hours at the time of writing. Watford proved to be no slouches, and they could feasibly get a Europa League place via the League or FA Cup. But United (with Ole taking the wheel in an official capacity) managed to see them off in a tightly-contested game at Old Trafford. Cardiff are fighting for their lives, so hopefully for us, it will not be easy for Chelsea.
This means all the same that a win vs. Newcastle United is imperative.
With few major injuries, bar long-term ones to Bellerin, Welbeck, and Holding, we have many players available. Torreira is still suspended, though this game will be the last of his three-match ban.
However, given we have home advantage, and that we’re technically stronger than Newcastle. I’d favour an attacking formation:
The addition of Jenkinson may surprise some, but if I were Emery I would play him, since who knows if he cannot be rehabilitated, as it were?
Sokratis and Kos pick themselves, as Mustafi (without being cruel to him) has more slides than Alton Towers.
Monreal is ageing, though I’d favour him over Kolasinac at this point since he better fits in a back-four.
Guendouzi has been rested of late, and Xhaka and Maitland-Niles could make an effective trio here. I’d like to see Ainsley burst forward, and he needs more time in his favoured position. Xhaka has caused some ire with his comments vis a vis transfers, but he has been playing well lately, so warrants inclusion. Apparently, Xhaka and Monreal have slight knocks but should be available for this game.
I’d play Ozil here since he has improved of late, and of course, Auba and Laca pick themselves.
Of course, Emery won’t look at this piece and use my selection. But in analysing this game, this is who I would play, given the need for the win, and the level of opposition we’re playing.
It’s important that our width comes from the full-backs, and I’m sure Monreal and Jenks can provide this. In addition, Maitland-Niles can get in both central and wide areas, and if things don’t go to plan, then changing formation and bringing on Kolasinac, Iwobi, or Mkhitaryan, can aid things.
This doesn’t mean the Toon is no threat. Rafa will try and rough us up, and look to possibly how Wolves, Huddersfield, and even Man United in the cup game played against us at the Emirates. They all looked to exploit space, high press us, and utilise pace in wide areas. Everton and West Ham used similar tactics too, and despite some good form, our off the ball work can be suspect at times. We thus need all of our players to lessen errors and be disciplined in their movements and positioning.
If we can handle any pressing and exposure of spaces they will give us, then our better players and home form should carry us through.
Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United
Benitez is a top manager, and he will get his side to be up for it, but we should hold the quality to surpass them.