Arsenal face Newcastle at home this evening in the Premier League. Usually at this time of year teams play twice a week, but Arsenal's game at home to West Ham on Wednesday was postponed due to a tube strike in London. It means Arsenal have played one less match than the teams directly above them and have slipped back to seventh place in the table.
Arsenal have won their last three league games in a row and had risen to fourth place before the postponed game. It would have been good to see them win again and maintain their place in the top four. Of course Arsene Wenger has complained of fatigue among his players at times this season and the lack of a game on Wednesday might just count in their favour.
Newcastle played away to league leaders United on Wednesday and put up a very good performance before losing 4-3. The game had to be very draining for their players and their squad is a little overworked at the moment due to a spate of injuries. It has to be reasonable to assume that the Arsenal players should have more to give on the day than Newcastle.
Newcastle did very well to finish fifth in the league last season and qualify for the Europa League. They have found it hard to cope with the added commitments of European football and the extra games have taken a toll on their squad. Some of their more influential players are missing as a result and Newcastle have slipped to
fifteenth in the table at the moment.
Their away form has been their real downfall with no wins in nine away games so far. They have managed four draws though and they can put up a fight against any team as they proved against United. They will be anxious to get their season back on track after losing seven of their last nine league matches.
Arsenal's home form hasn't been ideal so far this season with four wins and two draws in their eight games. The loss to Swansea was a low point and they have won their three league games since then. The performances may not have been ideal in all of those games, but they got the wins that were required.
In team news both Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky should be fit to return to the squad after missing the 1-0 at Wigan through illness. Their inclusions should at least offer a few alternatives to the manager. When they led 1-0 at Wigan the team were crying out for a striker to lead the line but they didn't have one available.
I can't imagine there will be too many changes from the team which best Wigan last Saturday. The big choice for the boss will be who plays in the central strikers role. I think Theo Walcott will keep his place but I would prefer to see Giroud start with Wslcott in a wide role.
Arsenal have struggled against teams who have closed them down this season. Santi Cazorla has been excellent at times but when he is marked out of the game Arsenal tend to lose their creative spark. A lot could depend on what tactics Newcastle deploy in the game.
If they push Arsenal very hard it could be a day where patience is needed from the team and fans. Newcastle showed the threat they pose on the break against United and Arsenal have to be aware not to over commit players going forward. If Arsenal play their own game at a fast pace they are bound to work Newcastle hard enough to tire them out.
Tired teams make mistakes and Arsenal will need to take advantage of any mistakes Newcastle make.
Arsenal are still far from the finished article, but there have been promising signs at times in recent games. They showed an attacking flair against Reading which hasn't been shown often enough this season. Reading may have been bottom of the table at the time, but no team had taken them apart the way Arsenal did for most of that game.
The attacking flair and movement the players showed on the night needs to be on view far more often. When they play like that few teams can match them and they really are great to watch. Hopefully another attacking performance like that will be on show with a sound defence to back it up.
A fourth win in a row would be a great boost and a trip to Southampton on Tuesday evening is up next. It's another game Arsenal can take all three points from and it would be great to start the new year on the back of five successive league wins. It would still leave the team right in the middle of a fight for third and/or fourth place, but it's a battle they might just have a chance of succeeding in.
Confidence is a great thing for any team to have and there can be no doubt that five wins in a row should boost the confidence. Hopefully the players can put in the performances in these two games to build thrift own confidence,
The transfer window opens shortly and the boss has indicated he will be active in it. He hasn't named his targets but hopefully he can set about business ax early as possible and strengthen the team. He has also indicated that a few players might be on the way out and it's obvious that a few of the current squad have no future at the club.
It might just be a little easier to bring a few players in if Arsenal are in the middle of a good league run. Hopefully that run will continue today with a win over Newcastle. I don't think it will be easy but I'm predicting a 2-1 win for Arsenal.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.