Friday, 15 December 2017

Arsenal v Newcastle United Preview

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Arsenal had moved into the top four and looked like they had a genuine chance of challenging for second place. Then we handed United three points at the Emirates and suddenly it seems the confidence sapped from our team. Successive away draws at Southampton and West Ham have seen us drop to seventh place with the season almost halfway over, but we are only one poont outside the top four.

For me the points dropped to Southampton and West Ham were worse than those dropped to United even though United are a rival for a top four spot. At least we played well against United with the exception of the goals we handed them and David de Gea had to be at his best to deny us time after time. We created nowhere near enough chances against both of them and we're going to continue to drop points if we can put away teams we should be beating.

Our away form in this calendar year has been nothing short of awful and it's only our home form that has kept us on the heels of the top four. We're only one point behind Spurs, Liverpool and Burnley and we will more than likely move up if we beat Newcastle. Thankfully we're at home to Newcastle though and our home form was perfect before that defeat to United.

That defeat has most certainly affected our confidence and you could see it in our defending against Southampton and West Ham at times. Laurent Koscielny gave the ball away in ridiculous situations in all three games and he's the player I would consider to be our best defender. It's more than just Koscielny's defending that is wrong though as we continue to give the ball away cheaply in virtually every position on the pitch.

We did switch to a back four against West Ham after nine months of playing with three central defenders and I can only hope we will keep that formation from here on. It's good to have the players used to playing with three central defenders as it means we have different options available to us if a switch is required. If we're going to be at our best defensively I think we also need to play players in theit best positions and that's something that hasn't happened often enough for my liking.

I doubt if Jack Wilshere can play from the start again so soon after the Newcastle game and we might just be saving him for the Carabao Cup game at home to West Ham on Tuesday night. It would mean we would have to bring someone in for him in midfield and there aren't too many options. I suspect Mohamed Elneny might be the player to get the nod and while he's a good player he's no Ramsey or Wilshere. 

I would like to see Alexandre Lacazette in from the start as his movement against a packed Newcastle defence could be a key factor if we're going to get the three points on offer. Olivier Giroud played instead of him on Wednesday night and again I suspect Giroud is bound for Spurs on Tuesday night next. I would be very surprised if Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil weren't in the team as they are highly unlikely to be rested for the equivalent of the league cup.

It makes sense to play our strongest team against Newcastle with another league game at home to Liverpool on Friday and I again would be very surprised if we didn't. Injuries can play a big role at this time of the season with so many games to play and I think the injury to Aaron Ramsey is a big blow to us at the moment. Not only has he been one of our better players this season, but his late runs into the box are something no other player seems to offer and we're missing them.

To be honest I care little about the Carabao Cup and six points at home to Newcastle and Liverpool are infinitely superior to beating West Ham on Tuesday night. I have no doubt that six points in those games would put us back in the top four and at this stage that has to be our number one priority this season. The FA Cup will come around soon enough as will the Europa League, but at the moment we need as many points as possible on the board.

As bad as we might be at the moment we're in much better shape than a Newcastle team who have taken one point from their last eight games. They're sliding quickly down the table and relegation has to be a very real worry for them this season. They're there to be beaten and we need to put as many goals as possible past them. We have won our last nine games against Newcastle and I can see no reason why that should change in this game.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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