When listening to the TV pundits raving about the wonders of Man City, the genius of Suarez and Liverpoool, the calculating charm (?) of Chelsea and Mourinho and the magnificence of the current champions, one may be surprised to learn that the team who picked up the most points in 2013 was none other than our beloved Arsenal. Has anyone praised the magnificent job done by Mr. Wenger? Through the summer there were daily reports (also from so-called Arsenal fans) about Our Leader losing the plot. Has he hell – he remains the best manager in the PL and probably Europe. As Terry says “the ghosts of the thirties are stirring” 😀
Can we repeat the magical final day win of just 6 months ago? On that wonderful day we defended like lions and had the inspirational Laurent Koscielny to thank for the victory. It also gave me my funniest moment of the year when the feckless Spurs fans mistakenly celebrated what they thought was a Newcastle goal …. click here to relive the moment.
Newcastle have moved forward since then, primarily thanks to two of their glut of Frenchmen, Remy and Cabaye. Would Remy have been an ideal fit as striking partner for Giroud? Would we have signed Ozil had the bids for Cabaye been successful? Either one of them would look good in the red and white but whether either would be starters is open to question.
Looking at the Newcastle side there is every reason for the Geordies to be optimistic about their chances this afternoon. The return of Tiote (the battle with Flamini could be explosive!) will add steel to a decent midfield. Sissoko and the wingman Gouffran (who has scored in his last 5 appearances at home) make up the numbers – it should be an interesting battle for control of the middle of St. James’ Park.
Upfront are Remy and Ameobi, pace and power but nothing that our defence cannot contain if they remain as cohesive as usual. Mr Wenger has talked about his admiration of Remy and it would not be a total surprise to see us make a bid for a man not CL cup-tied in January (not that I expect another expensive signing).
Defensively they have improved but it must be recalled that we are very strong on the road.
Newcastle are on a fine run having won 7, drawn one and lost one of their last 9 games.
Arsenal: I must start by going against the flow – following the WHU game many said we are better without Ramsey because it allows Podolski into the team and Santi to play centrally. No, No, NO. OK, he isn’t scoring as freely as a couple of months ago but Aaron is a top, top player and currently the beating heart of the team. Sure he needs a break but one or two games not the long layoff his injury could cause.
Random thought. Where the hell is Oxlade-Chamberlain?
Vermaelen or Koscielny? Rumour has it that Kos is fit to play. I wouldn’t take the risk, we have many battles ahead and TV has played well in Kos’s absence.
Monreal or Gibbs? Given the pace and trickery of both Gouffran and Ben Arfa I feel we have to start with Gibbs.
Should Giroud start? In my opinion definitely. He looks a bit leggy but Podolski is not a central striker and quite frankly Bendtner, though a starter against Hull is not in the same class.
The next question is whether Podolski should start or whether he needs more recuperation ? I have a feeling Mr Wenger is looking to ease the German back and use him as an impact sub for the next few games.
So, my team:
It pains me to leave out Cazorla after his excellent game at the Boleyn and perhaps Ozil will be rested but I can’t see it. Given that we are away Wilshere or Rosicky give more defensive security.
Go on …… argue your case for including either Cazorla or Podolski.
Today’s referee will be important in a game where midfield dominance is key. Unfortunately the ref is Lee Probert, a man who has a dreadful record with Arsenal. (see Untold Arsenal for details http://blog.emiratesstadium.info/archives/33337? ).
We have suffered at St. James from diabolical decisions in the past as the Geordies put pressure on the ref (4-4 Phil Dowd) and if ever there were a “homer” it is Probert. GN5, after the shabby work of Mike Dean vs Chelsea, said that if we score then we take the opportunity to derail us away from the referee, it is a point well made, but there must come a time when the refs are able to use technology to correct their mistakes because Dean’s (and others) failures could cost us dear.
This will be a tight game as once again we face a side who are at the top of their game – playing away in front of a packed and enthusiastic crowd, with a referee who is known to be poor, without Ramsey & Kos, with a tired Ozil and Giroud – would you take the draw? No, neither would I.
Another nail-biter in prospect.
written by Big Raddy