Last season, if someone told me we were going to host Newcastle at the Emirates, I would have been delighted and expecting 3 easy points. Last season, that is exactly what happened; this season it could be slightly different. We met Newcastle during a scintillating run of form and this coincided with an awful period for the Geordies. Allardyce was on the way out and the team was not playing well as a unit. Lo and behold we beat them three times at the Emirates last season, with consummate ease I add.
This season will be a different story I believe. Before I carry on I better say that I am not saying we will necessarily drop points. I just think Newcastle will put up a far better fight this time around. They come to London full of confidence having played very well in their first two league games. The new signings look very shrewd buys and Keegan has got them to gel very well, very quickly.
Arsenal go into this game after a real confidence boost. However, beating an awful team that look to foul you is only a small step. Simple movement fooled the opposition beyond belief. The second half was very boring but we still scored three goals. It was so easy, whenever we decided to attack with any purpose, we scored. This is a far bigger test and a solid performance, along with three points will answer the critics who claim a crisis is upon us after one defeat. Let’s prove it’s not just Man Utd that can bounce back as they constantly claim.
We all know about Shay Given and his heroics every time he comes to play Arsenal. This time however he has a far more solid defence in front of him. The purchase of Coloccini was very clever in my opinion. The guy is a no-nonsense centre back that compliments Taylor well. Adebayor must get in amongst them as they are not the biggest pairing. If Van Persie can produce some clever movement he will get some shooting opportunities. Robin will then have to hit the target; something he seems unable to do right now!
The wings could be our best outlet on Saturday. Beye and N’Zogbia have been playing at full back and do not look comfortable defending their own goal. They look weak when the ball is crossed in and Walcott could really take advantage. If he is on his game as he was against Twente, N’Zogbia will struggle. It simply depends on which Theo Walcott we see on Saturday. If he uses his pace on the ball and can get in behind N’Zogbia, we will have a lot of joy. Nasri will give Beye a horrid time if he plays the same way. The guy looks a real coup once again from Wenger and his movement within the side is becoming a key factor in our play.
The reason Newcastle got a point at United was the way they suffocated the midfield of United. They gave them no time on the ball and packed the midfield. Arsenal are the best team at moving the ball around and the key is to move it at pace and move their players around the park. Fabregas will give us new impetus in the League if the Twente game is anything to go by. It seemed to me that it gave the likes of Walcott extra confidence to make dangerous runs and get hold of the ball. Nicky Butt will look to roll back the years and mark him out of the game. It will be Nasri’s job to help Fabregas create chances and share the work load.
Whoever plays alongside Cesc will have to watch Danny Guthrie. Against United he took some risks and managed to get close to the opposition penalty area. The deeper lying midfielder, whether it be Song or Denilson will have to pay attention and be alive to any runs. I would prefer Song as he seems more solid. Apart from his assist at the very end, Denilson’s passing was off target once again and the boy looks a bit short of confidence right now. Song is the kind of player who will break up play and give us the security against the Newcastle counter attack. That is something they used to great effect against United and we must be wary.
Gutierrez and Duff were instrumental in this system and Song can add cover to the wings when Clichy and Sagna get forward. Our two Frenchmen have the energy and pace to get back but Gutierrez is deceptively fast and is arguably their biggest threat from midfield. Out of the new signings in the Premier League, he has impressed me more than most of the others.
With Milner seemingly on his way out of the club, it will be interesting to see how Keegan sets his side up. Milner and Duff rotated behind Martins and that gave them extra attacking options. It is likely that Geremi will move into the centre with Duff a winger. That will leave them with a lone striker in Michael Owen. The benefit here is that Toure and Gallas have the pace and recovery tackles to stop Owen. With Viduka injured, we should have little problems with the long ball. As long as we are wary of Owen’s heading ability from crosses we should be able to isolate him. He will have limited service with the midfield Keegan will put out but we must still be careful. Owen can still hurt teams and Gallas and Toure have been susceptible to lapses of concentration.
If Arsenal can play the way we played on Wednesday night, we should be able to get the three points. Newcastle will set up in an organised way and patience will be needed to break them down. The finishes must be clinical as beating Given is no easy job. Hopefully, the players prove Wenger is right to have faith in his squad.