Friday, 20 March 2015

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Newcastle Previewed And Predicted Line Up

Arsenal came so close away to Monaco on Tuesday night, but they went out at the same stage of the Champions League for the fifth season in a row. It seems to be their fate in the Champions League in recent seasons to reach the knockout stages and then blow it in the first leg before almost achieving the impossible only to gloriously fail. The mistakes were made in the first leg against Monaco and most of us knew how it would end up despite the optimism we had on Tuesday night.

No team had ever overcome a two goal deficit after the home leg in the Champions league knockout stages and Arsenal weren't going to be the ones to change that statistic. They gave it a real go though and they showed how well they can play and how average Monaco really are. I would be shocked to see them make any further progress in the competition.

I wrote a few days ago about Arsenal's ability to put disappointments behind them and do what is necessary in the next game. I have no doubts there will be some tired limbs after the game on Tuesday night, but most of those players will have to pick themselves up and take on Newcastle on Saturday afternoon. I can't remember the last time Arsenal played at 3pm on a Saturday two weeks in a row, but that's the case this week.

For the second week in a row they also have the opportunity to put pressure on some of those teams in and around them in the league by winning their game before most of their rivals play. City play in the early kick off and will be expected to win at home to West Brom no matter how badly they are playing while Spurs and Southampton both play their games at the same time as Arsenal. Meanwhile Liverpool, United and Chelsea will all have to watch on as they all play on Sunday afternoon. 

The meeting of Liverpool and United will see one or both of them drop points and afford Arsenal the opportunity to give themselves some breathing space over at least one of them as long as they beat Newcastle. It would be great to see Chelsea go to Hull with Arsenal only four points behind them even if Chelsea do have two games in hand. I don't think Arsenal will catch Chelsea, but I want to see them and their obnoxious manager start to sweat just a little.

In early team news it looks like the only player who could return to the squad is Tomas Rosicky while Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere are all still a few weeks away from returning. With a dreaded international break to come after this weekend there's a possibility one or all of them will be available soon after proper football returns. That has to be a good thing considering how many injuries Arsenal players tend to pick up on international duty.

I don't expect to see too many changes from the team that played on Tuesdsy as there is no upcoming game to rest the players for. As long as those players who performed so well against Monaco are feeling fresh enough to go again I would expect to see a very similar team. There are plenty of options on the bench though so Arsene Wenger could shake things up just a little.

I don't think it would be s bad thing if he gave Alexis Sanchez a little break as his form has deserted him in recent weeks. He carried the team almost single handedly for most of the first half of the season, but maybe he's feeling the effects of giving everything he has from first to last minute of every game he plays. If he was to miss out I think Aaron Ramsey would be the player to come in alongside Francis Coquelin in midfield with Santi Cazorla pushing s little further forward and Mesut Ozil a little wider.

I'm not a huge fan of Ozil playing in a wide role, but Cazorla has been so good in the middle that he has had to play there. It's not as if Ozil stays there when he plays wide any way as he drifts around the pitch trying to influence the game and make things happen. He has a big part to play in the fluidity of Arsenal's attack no matter what position he plays in.

If the boss decides to make changes he has plenty of options with Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel Paulista, Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott all available to him besides Ramsey. As I said though I expect the changes to be kept to a minimum and the team to continue to build on the momentum of the last few months. 

Arsenal have won eight of their last nine league games and have won 13 of the 16 games they have played since the turn of the year. Those wins have seen them through to the FA Cup semi finals and they are breathing down the necks of second placed City too. If they can continue winning games at the current rate then second place is a real possibility and that would be Arsenal's best league finish in a decade.

Newcastle haven't had the best of it since the turn of the year with only two wins in their 10 league games and only one out of five at home. Alan Pardew left to be temporarily replaced by John Carver and the chances are he won't keep the job with that record. They do have their moments at home though as Chelsea found out to their expense just when they were harbouring thoughts of matching Arsenal's invincibles.

The deciding factor in the game could be the striking options for both teams with Olivier Giroud in such good form for Arsenal while Newcastle's top scorer Papiss Cisse is suspended after his spitting incident against United. Giroud has scored the opening goal in each of the last four games he has started since his awful showing in the first leg against Monaco. Like the rest of the Arsenal team he seems to have discovered the ability to bounce back and he has to be a good bet to get the first goal once he starts the game.

This game brings back the awful memories of the 4-4 draw a few seasons ago when Arsenal were 4-0 up at half time. There have been some good memories at Newcastle too of course such as Denis Bergkamp's magnificent goal up there and Arsenal sealing fourth place on the last day of the 2012/13 season by winning 1-0. A win on Saturday will set the team up very nicely before those other teams play on Sunday and I think Arsenal will get that win. If they can play with the intensity and drive they showed on Tuesday night they should be more than good enough to take the three points. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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