Arsenal v Newcastle United - Match Preview
The measure of the task is in the recent track record. Newcastle have not scored since their opening game at the Emirates, a subtle Kieron Dyer effort with Glen Roeder the manager. The only Newcastle survivor from that match is Steve Taylor. The last win at Highbury was back in 2001, under Sir Bobby Robson.
However, after spectacular derby win against Sunderland, Chris Hughton will surely do all he can to prepare the Toon for what was perhaps his biggest derby, as a player for North London rivals, Spurs.
Arsene Wenger goes in to this match with the upper hand, not only at home, but after the recent Carling Cup win at St James` with a slightly weaker team than he might field today. Team choice might, however, be coloured by their first Champions League defeat earlier in the week as well as having struggled to overcome West Ham last week with a late goal.
Fabianski from Poland is the man in possession of the goalkeeping jersey. The line up from the last couple of games including the French quartet of Squillaci, Clichy, Sagna, and Koscielny, with the Swiss Djourou having also featured.
Fabregas is set to return as the midfield lynchpin, with Cameroonian Song seemingly preferred in the centre of the park recently. Czech Rosicky could play a part if a 5 man midfield is chosen, the Turk who turned down Keegan at the Toon playing wide. Two rare sights in an Arsenal shirt, Englishmen Walcott and the promising Wilshere could also figure.
Striking choices are also varied. This might be a match too early for the return of Dutchman van Persie, with other option not as prolific as the Newcastle strike force. Moroccan international Chamakh has 3 in the league, Russian Arshavin 2, and the Dane, Bentner has one, to go with his goal against us in the Carling Cup.
For Hughton, it will be hard to change a winning team, particularly one which won so spectacularly last Sunday. Tim Krul is a certainty to continue in goal, with the selection dilemma being whether to revert to 4-5-1 or stick with 4-4-2.
Pressing for recalls in defence are Steve Taylor and Sol Campbell. The team have looked more solid since the return of Danny Simpson, with Coloccini, Williamson and Enrique set to continue as the quartet who gelled so well last season.
Barton will hope to continue where he left off two seasons ago against Nasri whislt trying to avoid a 5th card of the season and subsequent suspension. Tiote is making the holding role his own, as Viera once did for the Gunners. Jonas provides an attacking threat as well as the ability to track back against the likes of Walcott, with Nolan, joint top Premier League scorer before this weekend, also a certainty. Smith provides the 2nd holding option.
Andy Carroll showed enough in his cameo substitute role during the home Carling Cup tie to demonstrate that he will be a threat. He also provides cover in defence when the going gets tough. Ameobi has 16 goals from 16 starts over the last 2 seasons, but has been unlucky not to score against Arsenal in his 13 appearances to, date. A goal today will see him complete his tally against the top 4 clubs in the Premier League years.
Referee for the occasion is Mike Dean, with something of a reputation among supporters for favouring the top club, especially at home. Arsenal`s last 3 defeats under him were at Man United and Chelsea (twice). He refereed a 1-1 draw between these two at St James` Park in 2007. as well as a home wins at Highbury in 2000 (5-0) and 2002 (1-0). Despite that, his record is balanced for both teams in the recent past.
Arsenal will be firm favourites for the home win. However, this is a season when Newcastle have confounded the odds, with two unlikely home defeats combined with two huge home wins and 2 away victories at Everton and West Ham, not to mention in the Carling Cup against Chelsea.
The Gunners proved vulnerable against one of the other promoted teams, West Brom, and may struggle to cope with height and power if Hughton opts for the twin tower strike force of Carroll and Ameobi.
If refereed fairly, the result could be closer than outsiders anticipate. In any event, this should be a fascinating contrast between foreign flair and craft, and earthy North East effort.
Toon away at Arsenal
P84 W19 D18 L37 F82 A131
P71 W19 D22 L38 F74 A105
P16 W3 D4 L9 F12 A27
At the Emirates
P5 W0 D1 L4 F1 A15
Arsenal (from): Fabianski, Clichy, Squillaci, Koscielny, Sagna, Nasri, Song, Wilshere, Fabregas, Walcott, Chamakh, Szczesny, Arshavin, Denilson, Bendtner, Vela, Djourou, Rosicky.
Newcastle (from): Krul, Soderberg, R. Taylor, Simpson, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, S. Taylor, Campbell, Kadar, Smith, Tiote, Barton, Routledge, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Vuckic, Tavernier, Donaldson, Nolan, Carroll, Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Ranger.