After an average performance against Shakhtar during the week, we need to get back on track with a win in the league against Newcastle. We played them about two weeks ago in the Carling Cup – both teams played second string sides – and we thumped them 4-0, at St James’ Park no less. We had some luck – our first goal went in off the back of their goalkeeper’s head, and our second was most certainly offside. However, we had loads of chances early on, and our third & fourth goals were indisputable.
Mid-week absentees Cesc Fabregas, Denilson, Andrey Arshavin and Alex Song all return to the fray, but Abou Diaby is still injured, and the boss is worried. Speaking of our great leader, he’s apparently been having an affair, according to the Sun anyway. Make of that what you will. Anyway, back to the team news. It wouldn’t surprise me if Arshavin was left on the bench. With Walcott and Nasri in the best form they’ve been in, and Wenger’s praise of Denilson when playing alongside Song, it seems like there won’t be much room for Arshavin. I think we’ll line up like this:
Sagna — Squillaci — Koscielny — Clichy
Song — Denilson
Walcott —– Fabregas —– Nasri
We might see Bendtner in the lone striker role, but I doubt it, he’s still a little rusty, as he proved against Shakhtar with a lacklustre performance, while Chamakh has been excellent this season, especially at the Emirates. Fabianski will I’m sure continue in goal, and he’s been saying how we’ll be ready for Newcastle (ATVO subscribers only) and how focus and hard work got him through his rough patch. Like Theo and Nasri, Fabianski is most definitely in his best form for Arsenal. Let’s hope he can keep that up against Newcastle tomorrow.
One player definitely not in his best form is Gael Clichy. Many have been critical of him this season, and I’ve defended him, but his error against Shakhtar Donetsk was inexcusable. After nicking the ball from Darijo Srna, he hesitated, trying to play his way out of it instead of putting the ball out for a throw (like all defenders are taught to), Srna stole it, cut it back for Eduardo… and he scored. That turned out to be the winner.
We all know at his best, Clichy is one of the best full backs around. We really need him to recapture that form if we’re to be solid at the back. And if we want to go far, we need to be solid at the back. Fabianski’s pulled his socks up in order to help us be solid, now it’s time for Clichy to do the same.
Thomas Vermaelen will finally be back in training in a matter of days, while Robin van Persie returned today. What’s shocking though, is that he’s been called up to the Holland friendly in a couple of weeks or so. I read some pretty shocking statistics the other day, but I can’t seem to find them. All I remember was that he’s played nearly twice as many minutes for Holland than he has for us in the last year or something. When he was flying last season, Holland played him in a meaningless friendly, he got injured and was out for about 6 months as a consequence. A repeat of that would be disastrous.
Anyway, back to the game, both our and Newcastle’s last league games were huge in different respects. We scored a last minute winner against West Ham, grinding out a result despite not playing well, something that, when Man United do it, is called “the sign of champions”. Newcastle thumped their local rivals Sunderland 5-1 at St James’. So both teams will be on a high, despite our Champions League reverse in Ukraine. We should definitely have enough to beat Newcastle.
Come on you Gunners!