Arsenal v Newcastle United
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: April 28, 2014 8:00 PM BST
I have a feeling that people have been occupied with a fourth-place and FA Cup-double that they have forgotten that we are very close to celebrating yet another St Totteringham’s Day, a day that is a bit like Easter – it happens every year but not necessarily on the same day.
This year it might land on 28th April, much earlier than has in the last two seasons. We are four points clear with a game in hand. If we beat Newcastle on Monday night, we will celebrate St Totteringham’s Day.
It’s funny when you look at it – Spuds sold Bale and replaced him with Eriksen and Six Stooges for 110,000,000 pounds. They were expected to fight for the top four and give a good scare to Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United but it turned out most of their newbies were flops. With the money they had spent one could have signed Suarez (remember, his price-tag in the summer was 55m pounds), Özil (42.5n pounds) and Remy (there are various reports about his alleged minimum fee release clause – depending on source, it’s between eight and thirteen million pounds).
Nevertheless, St Totteringham’s Day might bring us much more joy – our fourth-place-trophy might be all but secured on Monday night. If we beat the Magpies who have been terrible in the second half of the season, the gap between us and Everton will be four points with only two games to go. That should be enough for us.
Our next opponents are Newcastle. They have been in decline since Yohan Cabaye had left for PSG in January and have lost five in a row and nine out of twelve since the end of the transfer window. Those defeats included two 0:4 humiliations at home against Spuds and Manchester United, teams that Magpies have beaten in the reverse fixtures. The thing is, ever since they had realized they would neither compete for the European competitions nor fight against relegation their season has been effectively over. That fact makes you ask yourself what the English FA should do to prevent that sort of thing in the future and maybe the same question should be addressed to UEFA. A return of good old Intertoto-cup that used to start in July wouldn’t improve things, would it? An introduction of the third European cup, something that we have missed since the Cup Winners’ Cup was merged with the UEFA Cup?
Of course, teams that don’t have anything to fight for can still perform well and produce a surprising result (as seen in the match between Southampton and Everton). That’s why we should take a professional approach to our match against Newcastle. They have pacey and technical players like Ben Arfa, Remy and Papiss Cisse while their midfield has a physical presence through Tiote and Sissoko. Tim Krul – on his day – can give a preposterous performance between the sticks. As I’ve already mentioned, they have won at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane this season and they have looked more relaxed and dangerous on their travels. That’s why we should not underestimate them and don’t allow things that we had allowed to Hull City before Podolski’s first goal of the game settled things for us.
It seems that we will have the very same team that had won against Hull City at our disposal. Szczesny’s clean sheet at KC stadium should be an injection of self-confidence he had needed for some time. Sagna’s form hasn’t suffered due to his unresolved contract issue and that shouldn’t be the case on Monday night either. Nacho Monreal will probably take his place on the left side of the defence. Mertesacker and Koscielny will do their usual tick-tack routine as the heart of our defence. Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta are likely to start in the middle of the pitch with Cazorla, Özil and Podolski supporting Giroud. That worked pretty well against Hull City and it should be the same against the Magpies as well.
We have played three times against Newcastle at the Emirates since they returned to the Premiership. Andy Carroll’s goal gave them three points in 2010-11 with Koscielny being sent off at the end of the game. Next season Ben Arfa’s opener gave Newcastle an advantage that was nullified with an instant reply from van Persie. In the 95th minute Thomas Vermaelen started and finished a move that broke a resilient Newcastle defensive line with van Persie giving a sarcastic comment to Krul about his time-wasting. Last campaign this fixture was the last match for Arsenal in 2012. Newcastle were pretty annoying with their constant equalizers after mistakes from our defence (Gibbs gave one of his worst defensive performances in his career) before we broke them down in the last 18 minutes with four goals. Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick while late substitute Olivier Giroud was denied one by the post at the very end of the game. We have won our last four encounters against the Magpies (Giroud’s header after Walcott’s cross secured us three points in the reverse fixture) and it might turn out to be that our Champions’ League place is going to be secured with another victory against them. Last season we won 1:0 at St James Park and secured fourth place thanks to Koscielny’s magnificent volley.
If we beat Newcastle, we will match our point-tally from last season (73) with two matches to go and we have already won the same number of points at home like we had won last term (38).
The Fourth-place-trophy is within our reach and everything depends on us. If we show fluent football attacking-wise like we have done since the defeat against Everton, Newcastle shouldn’t give us any headaches. Maybe it’s time for Giroud’s brace?
Arsenal: Vermaelen (doubt-hamstring), Wilshere (ankle), Ryo (hamstring), Diaby (groin), Gibbs (groin/hamstring), Walcott (knee).
Newcastle: Obertan (knee), Taylor (knee).
Head to Head
Premier League (EPL) 29 Dec 2013 Newcastle United 0 – Arsenal FC 1
Premier League (EPL) 19 May 2013 Newcastle United 0 – Arsenal FC 1
Premier League (EPL) 29 Dec 2012 Arsenal FC 7 – Newcastle United 3
Premier League (EPL) 12 Mar 2012 Arsenal FC 2 – Newcastle United 1
Premier League (EPL) 13 Aug 2011 Newcastle United 0 – Arsenal 0
20 Apr 2014 Hull City 0 – Arsenal FC 3 EPL
15 Apr 2014 Arsenal FC 3 – West Ham United 1 EPL
12 Apr 2014 Wigan 1 (2) – Arsenal FC 1 (4) FAC
06 Apr 2014 Everton 3 – Arsenal FC 0 EPL
25 Mar 2014 Arsenal 1 – Manchester City 1 EPL
19 Apr 2014 Newcastle United 1 – Swansea 2 EPL
12 Apr 2014 Stoke 1 – Newcastle United 0 EPL
5 Apr 2014 Newcastle United 0 – Manchester United 4 EPL
29 Mar 2014 Southampton 4 – Newcastle United 0 EPL
25 Mar 2014 Newcastle United 0 – Everton 3 EPL
Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Monreal
Arteta (c) Ramsey
Arsenal FC 3 – 0 Newcastle United