Date:Saturday February 5 2011
This afternoon`s guests at St James are the Gunners. Eyes will be off the pitch as much as on it. Will Pardew be in the firing line?
At least there is solidarity among managers. Pardew travails will attract the sympathy of Arsene Wenger, or will they? The two clashed at the end of a West Ham win against Arsenal, Wenger feeling he was provoked by Pardew after former Newcastle loanee Marlon Harewood scored the winner. After being fined, Wenger is quoted as saying "I accept his excuses". It remains to be seen whether the Tyneside faithful will be equally accommodating.
Pardew`s credibility has been severely stretched this week. Having proclaimed that Chairman, Derek Llambias, has assured him that Carroll would not be sold, going nowhere, not at any price, it might be reasonable to assume that one of them is not entirely truthful, if not both.
For the 3rd home game in a row, the Toon face London opposition. For the 2nd time in 3, Pardew seeks to complete a double that his less experienced predecessor started, the previous time being the only one that Pardew`s Newcastle have scored more than 1 goal. The other win was against a team in a relegation position, as they were when Pardew was sacked by them, West Ham.
There will be changes from the win at the Emirates, at least two. The striker who scored and was not for sale has gone to Liverpool, the other was injured in the defeat against Fulham. The goalkeeper who kept a clean sheet down there has been heavily criticized by the new boss, so Harper will start.
There could also be an alteration in defence, Coloccini being a doubt. Simpson will start on the right, Enrique on the left, with Williamson guaranteed a starting place. With Steve Taylor injured, should |Colo not make it the choice is between the out of favour Campbell who would relish a turn against his former club, or the fans` least favourite, Perch.
Midfield sees the return of Tiote after his 3 match ban. There seems little doubt that he will start, but whether Guthrie is dropped or the manager chooses 5 man midfield remains to be seen. If a 4, then Guthrie looks set to miss out, Jonas on the left, Barton on the right and Nolan the leading scorer remaining in the squad.
Without Carroll or Ameobi, the logical leader of the line would be Best, scoring during 1 game out of his 19 appearances. Ranger is yet to start in the Premier League. Lovenkrands is not a line leader, but has shown himself capable on the shoulder of the last man, perhaps indicating that a 5 man midfield might be encouraged to play with the ball on the floor, one of their opponents` strengths.
Wenger has 3 injury concerns of his own but remain the team in form, having gained 13 points out of 15 to go with a Carling Cup final place and getting through 2 rounds of the FA Cup since the turn of the year.. The keeping shirt will clearly go to top scorer in the Scrabble league, Szczesny.
Squillaci returns from suspension to threaten the defensive partnership of Koscielny and Djourou, with Sagna and Clichy expected outside.
Young English prospect, part of England`s future along with Carroll, Wilshere will relish the opportunity to show his credentials, alongside promising Frenchman Diaby. Mercurial Spaniard Fabregas is always capable of dictating a game. Song, Denilson and Nasri, much to the chagrin of Barton, will miss out injured.
Walcott is expected to make the start of the game, looking forward to carrying on from his success in the Carling cup on this ground earlier in the season. Arshavin will be a big test on the left side, with van Persie usually formidable against Newcastle.
Referee for the occasion is Phil Dowd, last seen at St James` in the 5-1 romp against Sunderland to go with a Carling Cup win at Stamford Bridge. His last Arsenal league match being a defeat in a home derby against North London rivals, Spurs, followed by a home cup draw with Leeds. For once we have a referee who would seem to favour the home team on this season`s showing so far.
Arsenal`s form will make them favourites, as they seek to cement their automatic Champions League place. Newcastle have been the coupon busters, but the task will be daunting with a strike force that has generally failed to fire under the new boss. However, a solitary goal proved crucial.
As for the track record at home, Newcastle have a clear edge, although in the Premier League years the honours are totally even despite the Toon not having beaten the Gunners at home since December 2005. After the circumstances of the week, a draw would be a good result for the Magpies.
Newcastle v Arsenal at St James`:
P80 W41 D19 L20 F144 A
P16 W5 D5 L5 F15 A14
Harper, Krul, Simpson, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, Campbell, Tiote, Barton, Nolan, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Vuckic, Richardson, Lovenkrands, Best, Ranger.
Szczesny, Clichy, Djourou, Koscielny, Sagna, Wilshere, Diaby, Fabregas, Walcott, Rosicky, van Persie, Almunia, Chamakh, Bendtner, Arshavin, Eboue, Gibbs, Squillaci.
Date:Saturday February 5 2011
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