The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Newcastle
- Galatasaray 1-4 Arsenal (CL)
- Stoke 3-2 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-0 So’ton (Prem)
- WBA 0-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 Dortmund (CL)
- Newcastle 2-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Burnley 1-1 Newcastle (Prem)
- West Ham 1-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- WBA 0-2 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-0 Liverpool (Prem)
“It’s credit to the owner and also credit to me because I’ve had to dig in a few times,” declared a smug Alan Pardew after his Newcastle side became the first team to beat Chelsea in any competition this season.
“I think we both knew that when we signed that long contract (EIGHT YEARS, folks), there were going to be difficult days as well as good days for us both.”
The poor bloke just wants a pat on the head. On Tuesday, Pardew hit four years as Newcastle United manager, a milestone he probably should never have reached under normal circumstances. In context, only three managers in The 92 have been at their club longer: Arsene Wenger, Paul Tisdale of Exeter and Karl Robinson at MK Dons.
When Newcastle met Arsenal in this fixture last season, the Magpies were crawling their way to a 10th-place conclusion; their north London rivals, meanwhile, cruising towards another top-four finish on autopilot. The 3-0 scoreline in April was inevitable: one of Arsenal’s five consecutive wins to round off the season, and the Magpies’ sixth straight defeat of a lengthy malaise.
But things aren’t so certain this time. This time, it’s Newcastle that head in as the form side, having miraculously turned things around to win six of their last eight and join the Gunners in the top seven.
Arsenal capitulated inside 45 minutes at Stoke, going three goals down at the Britannia Stadium before threatening a comeback after the break.
A big win at Galatasaray has restored some confidence at the Emirates, but it’s hard to get away from the fact this is another very poor season from Wenger’s troops.
Injuries have bitten the Frenchman once again, though his decision to head into the campaign with six senior defenders has proved disastrous.
Against Stoke the Gunners conceded from the first shot on target for the seventh time this season. Against Manchester United they didn’t even need a shot on target to go behind thanks to Kieran Gibbs’ own goal.
The hosts do at least have an excellent record against the Magpies, losing only one of their last 14 Premier League meetings (W8 D5) and winning the most recent five.
Arsenal face another defensive reshuffle with Calum Chambers suspended, but former Magpie Mathieu Debuchy is back after starting his first game in almost three months against Galatasaray. Will Laurent Koscielny be fit to partner Per Mertesacker? Wenger had better hope so, with Nacho Monreal (ankle) crocked. David Ospina should return to resume No.2 duties, but Mikel Arteta (calf), Mesut Ozil (knee), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Tomas Rosicky (hip) and Abou Diaby (thigh apparently, but just name a body part) are still sidelined.
You might want to pop the kettle on right about now, because Newcastle have it even worse. Steven Taylor and Moussa Sissoko are both banned, while Tim Krul (ankle), Rob Eliott (thigh), Fabricio Coloccini (hair crisis), Ryan Taylor (Ryan Taylor-syndrome), Davide Santon (knee), Gabriel Obertan (thigh), Rolando Aarons (hamstring), Siem de Jong (also thigh) and Mehdi Abeid (toe) are all busying an overworked physio.
Player to watch: Sammy Ameobi (Newcastle)
Back in September, boss Pardew warned the boyhood Magpie that he was sipping dangerously in the Last Chance Saloon. “I am running out of time with him and he is running out of chances,” said the under-pressure Toon chief, whose own days at St James’ Park were under question.
Four games later, Ameobi netted with his first touch to help Newcastle to victory at Spurs. Since then the 22-year-old – playing for his future with his contract expiring in the summer – has started the Magpies’ next six games, providing an assist in the win over QPR and for Papiss Cisse’s first goal against Chelsea.
Suffice to say, he's his making his last chance count. Pardew called into question the young forward’s defensive contributions in his public criticism two months ago, but against the Blues there were no such worries. As well as his key contribution for Cisse, Ameobi made as many interceptions as any other player (3), and 2 tackles in key areas. Against former team-mate Debuchy and the ever-dangerous Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, there'll have to be more of the same.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Arsenal 3-0 N'castle (PL, Apr 14)
- N'castle 0-1 Arsenal (PL, Dec 13)
- N'castle 0-1 Arsenal (PL, May 13)
- Arsenal 7-3 N'castle (PL, Dec 12)
- Arsenal 2-1 N'castle (PL, Mar 12)
A big win for the Gunners in midweek after Wenger had bemoaned his side’s “tender” and “soft” defending at Stoke, but more regret for the Frenchman nonetheless. “There's a little bit of frustration that we have finished runners-up, but we knew at half-time that we needed to score six goals without conceding,” he sighed.
“We won four games, lost one and had one draw. Looking back, we can maybe regret that point at home to Anderlecht.”
Pardew’s post-match press conferences are happier occasions.
The Wimbledon native hailed his side’s “character and discipline against the best team in Europe at the moment” post-Chelsea – and in fairness, he had a point. “We had a tactical plan and it worked quite well.” Well done, Alan! *ruffles hair*
Facts and figures
- Olivier Giroud has netted 4 goals in 4 Premier League appearances against the Magpies.
- Papiss Cisse has scored 7 goals from just 10 shots on target in the Premier League this season.
- Since the start of last season, Newcastle have been shown more red cards than any other Premier League side (9).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Arsenal’s win in Turkey will have done them good, despite the result’s insignificance. The defeat at Stoke should be a badly needed kick up the backside. Close, but 2-1 to the Gunners.