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Friday, 4 February 2011

Newcastle (a) preview

Alex Song - his contribution will be missed tomorrow

The games continue to come thick and fast for Arsenal in the Premier League and tomorrow sees another big battle for three points away to Newcastle United. We've already had mixed results against Newcastle this season - hammering them at St James' Park in the Carling Cup, but losing at home in the Premier League. Tomorrow will be another entirely different game with Newcastle missing both of their centre-forwards - Carroll has gone to Liverpool and Ameobi is out injured. This is a big bonus for Arsenal as both of those players have the physicality to cause our defence major problems. Carroll comprehensively outplayed our centre-backs at our place in the Autumn and then out jumped Fabianski for the winning goal, so his departure is a real weight off the mind for me.
In midfield Newcastle will be strong and powerful. They will have Kevin Nolan and the nasty Joey Barton kicking anything that moves, as well as the very impressive Tiote likely to return from suspension. Arsenal, meanwhile, are significantly weaker in midfield in the absence of Alex Song. We have no realistic cover for Song within the squad. Denilson is not up to the job (and is injured anyway) while Diaby is not capable of playing the defensive role properly, despite what Arsene Wenger would have you believe. Arsenal's best hope will be, as ever, to attack from the start and try to get at Newcastle's weak defence. There will be little time and space in the middle of the pitch, especially early on, so we have to hope that we get a strong refereeing display for a change - unfortunately we have Phil Dowd instead.
Arsenal will surely replace Rosicky with Arshavin on the left, while Theo Walcott has apparently recovered from the kicking he got off Fellaini on Tuesday evening. With Van Persie and Fabregas we should certainly have too much for Newcastle on the day but, as usual, so much depends on Arsenal's attitude. The players have looked keen in recent weeks and the effort they have been showing must continue to be present in their game.
Newcastle's crowd is nothing like the intimidating presence the press would have you believe - like any other group of fans they are pretty quiet until roused by something on the pitch. If Arsenal can get ahead early on, or at least dominate possession as usual then the "Toon" will be very quiet indeed.
I think Arsenal's team will look a bit like this:
Szczesny - Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy - Diaby, Wilshere, Fabregas - Arshavin, Van Persie, Walcott
I fancy Gael Clichy for a goal tomorrow - he should have scored against Everton the other night but chose to pass when one-on-one with Tim Howard. Clichy has returned to form in the past couple of weeks and I reckon he might just surprise us with a scoring performance.

There will be no post tomorrow, but I'll be back on Sunday with a review of the match.

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