Arsenal's Premier League Game with Newcastle United Previewed
Arsenal have won their last four Premier League games in a row, and scored 16 goals in the process. In their last two home games in the Premier League they have found the back of the net 12 times. Blackburn conceded seven goals against them, and then they scored five goals against Spurs after going 2-0 down.
They have climbed back into the top four in the league, and with the present form of third-placed Spurs they could even finish third. The results at the weekend went in Arsenal's favour, as Spurs lost for the third game in a row. Fifth-placed Chelsea did manage a win, but Arsenal still lead them on goal difference with a game in hand.
Newcastle are still in with an outside chance of finishing in the top four mainly due to a combination of a good start to the season and their home form. They have struggled away from home recently with both Fulham and Spurs putting five goals past them in two of their last three away games. A win for Newcastle would see them close the gap on Arsenal and Chelsea to only one point, but it will be a tough task for them.
Only a few weeks ago Arsenal trailed Spurs 2-0 at home with halftime approaching, and it looked like they would fall 13 points behind their fiercest rivals with 12 games to go. They managed a magnificent turnaround in that game and eventually ended up winning 5-2. Since then Spurs have lost twice more, and Arsenal have the opportunity to close the gap to only one point by beating Newcastle.
What will be the outcome of Arsenal vs. Newcastle?
The team have found the strength and resilience which they have been accused of lacking in the past, and suddenly third place looks well within their grasp. They played AC Milan on Tuesday night in a Champions League game in which they had little or no chance of progressing. They managed to win 3-0 on the night, but it meant they fell one goal short of bringing the game into extra time.
The team gave their all that night, but the lack of midfield options on the bench was ultimately what cost them a chance of pulling off a very unlikely result. Those options will increase greatly for the game against Newcastle with the return of both Mikael Arteta and Aaron Ramsey. There is also a possibility of Yossi Benayoun returning, but I doubt he will get a starting role.
I usually don't like Arsenal playing on a Monday night, but the players needed a break after their recent hectic schedule. It will have been six days since their last game when they play, and it should mean the players have recovered from their exertions against Milan.
The other interesting injury news for Arsenal is the possible return to the squad of Andre Santos. He picked up an injury in a meaningless Champions League game away to Olympiacos three months ago, and he was predicted to miss three months at the time. For once an Arsenal player will actually return from injury on schedule, and it certainly makes a pleasant surprise.
I expect Arsene Wenger to pick a very similar team to the one that beat Milan with the exception of Arteta returning in midfield in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The big choice for the manager will then be whether he decides to play Chamberlain in a wide role or to stick with Gervinho. I think Chamberlain should get the nod, as Gervinho has looked anything but at his best since his return from the Africa Cup of Nations.
I think the loss in the final for the Ivory Coast may have been a blow for him, and he doesn't look to have recovered physically or mentally to me. In the reverse fixture in August he was given a straight red card after a run-in with then-Newcastle player Joey Barton. There will be no chance for revenge on Barton, as he has since joined relegation-bound Queens Park Rangers.
As long as Arsenal can play with the intensity and style they have shown recently I think they will have far too much for Newcastle. They will have to watch out for the goalscoring exploits of Demba Ba, but Newcastle will have to try to stop the best player in the Premier League. Robin van Persie has scored 25 goals in 27 league games, and that's more than all of the bottom club Wigan have managed in 28 games.
Arsenal are the third-highest scorers in the league so far this season, and they look capable of scoring plenty of goals in their last 11 games. A win against Newcastle will put real pressure on Spurs, and the momentum will well and truly be with Arsenal. It's a game the team have quite simply got to win, and I believe they will win too.
The defence has finally got some stability and they are playing together as a unit more than they have done so far all season. It's no coincidence that the defence is looking better now that it consists of four players playing in their proper positions. Kieran Gibbs has a reputation for being very injury-prone, and it's good to see that Santos is back to fill in for him if needed.
I'm predicting a 3-1 win for Arsenal with that man RVP again getting his name on the score sheet. He looks destined to get 30 league goals this season, and possibly an awful lot more. He hasn't missed a game from injury yet this season, and I cannot remember him ever managing to go a whole season uninjured before for Arsenal.
I'm sure Newcastle will try to get tight and frustrate Arsenal, but if Arsenal play at their best it should be too much for them. Newcastle have some good players, and on their day they can play very well. They haven't looked good in their last three games though, and they will have to show a vast improvement to have any hope.
Arsenal have over a week off before they play again thanks to the FA Cup quarterfinals next weekend. I would prefer to see Arsenal still in the cup, but they should get the chance to get some good down time because of their inactivity. When they return they will have two games in four days, as they travel to Everton before playing Aston Villa at home.
I'm lucky enough to have a ticket for the Villa game, and I'll be making my third trip of the season to watch it with some fellow Irish Gooners. Hopefully I can get to see Arsenal win for the third time after seeing the victories over Sunderland and Everton. If I'm really lucky I will also get to see Arsenal move into third place in the league after that game too.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.
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