20 March 2015

Newcastle-Arsenal Preview: can we crush Krul?

Having observed our annual purging of the Champions League, we can now turn our sights squarely on the Prem, and standing in the crosshairs is Newcastle, who sit 11th and might be content to coast along through the run-in secure in the sense that they will not finish among the top four, nor will they sink down to the relegation-scrap. This does not mean, however, that we can mail it in at St. James’s Park, not by a long shot.

First and foremost, shake off the doldrums induced by our midweek miscue against AS Monaco. No, we didn’t do enough to advance, but we did do enough to remind ourselves of what we’re capable of when we put our minds to it. Against a side that had kept clean sheets in its last twelve outings, we found two goals and might have had twice that but for some misfires. Even if the result wasn’t enough to see us progress to the Champions League quarter-final, it was enough to earn us our fifth win in a row and our third clean sheet in as many matches.

As for Newcastle, not only have they faded down in recent weeks, they might now best us in one area that has come to be our specialty: injuries. Coming into this match, Newcastle skipper John Carver has just 13 senior players available, with injuries to de Jong, Aarons, Taylor, Elliot, Dummett, Abeid, and Tioté all sidelined, and with Coloccini and Cissé serving suspensions depriving Carver of options. This may force to bring in some youth-players. Then again, it’s your correspondent’s humble opinion that Tim Krul is capable, on his day, of keeping his club competitive. Regardless of who faces off against us on Saturday, we’ll have to test Krul early, often and intensely if we’re serious about challenging for a second-place finish in the Prem.

As such, I’d expect Arsène to name a full-strength squad ahead of the international break but with an eye to rotation as well. Alexis has looked a bit weary of late, and I could see him rested in order to make way for an attacking trio of Welbeck, Giroud, and Walcott (contract considerations be damned). With Özil behind them pulling strings and threading passes, we could and should see a few chances carved out if not finished. Behind them, a Ramsey-Coquelin pairing might be in the offing, if only to give Cazorla a much-needed breather while bringing Ramsey back up to speed. The Welshman has been on a bit of a run of late, with two goals and an assist in his last two outings. Perhaps he’ll make it three matches in a row with a goal to his name…

LAST 3:
  • Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle (13.12.2014)
  • Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle (28.04.2014)
  • Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal (29.12.2013)
FACTFILE:
  • The two clubs first clashed on 2 September 1893, a 2-2 draw.
  • Arsenal have not lost at St. James’s Park since 10 December 2005.
  • Arsenal have kept a clean sheet in their last three trips to St. James’s Park.
INJURIES:
  • Arteta, Diaby, Debuchy, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Paulista have all been ruled out; Wilshere and Rosický face late fitness tests.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI:
  • Ospina; Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Chambers; Ramsey, Coquelin; Alexis, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.
Newcastle might be a depleted squad, but that’s no reason to ease off. Full-speed ahead, and we could end the weekend second on the table (if only temporarily).

PREDICTION: Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal

This post originally appeared at Goonersphere.

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