29 August 2015

Can Giroud continue to manhandle the Magpies?

The last time we faced Pardew's crew, we eked out a 1-2 victory at Selhurst Park and—oh. Sorry. Wrong dossier. Still, we've lorded it over Newcastle over the last few years, winning seven in a row across all competitions. Then again, we're off to a sluggish start, failing to impress by varying degrees in each of our last three. While Newcastle have failed to win, they've also started with one of the toughest sets of fixtures—drawing at home with Southampton before losing away to Swansea and then drawing at Old Trafford. In other words, they may be winless, but they're hardly gormless.

At our end, of course, we're dispirited after a depressing start to what was supposed to be a season brimming with vim and vigour. Instead, we're languishing midtable with apparently gaping questions about the legitimacy of our ambitions, the ability of our only significant signing, and whether or not we'll again be fortunate to finish in the top four. Between Thursday's Champions League draw and the closing of the transfer-window on Tuesday, we might be tempted to overlook Newcastle. To those willing to make the mistake,

I'll toss out one name: Aleksandar Mitrović. While the name may not strike fear into many hearts, it's worth nothing he scored the equaliser when Anderlecht came away from the Emirates with a 3-3 draw. He went on to score, it must be noted, 28 goals in 51 appearances that season, and he comes in along with Georginio Wijnaldum (from PSV Eindhoven) and Florian Thauvin (from Olympique Marseille) as a trio of ambitious signings. Manager Steve McLaren has this crew starting to believe in itself after the draw at Old Trafford.

We'll likely go in again with Gabriel and Chambers in defense as Mertesacker and Koscielny continute to nurse injuries. The new CB pairing did well enough against Liverpool's attack (such as it was) and will be called on again to deny Mitrović, who poses a challenge altogether different from what Benteke did. Unlike Liverpool, Newcastle have been a bit more generous, conceding four goals thus far. Even though they'll be at home, expect them to hunker down and dare us to score, much as they did against Man U and Liverpool did against us.The bigger question for Newcastle, though, is whether Krul can turn in a blinder against us as big as the one Mignolet did. For as fine a keeper as Krul can be, something in me doubts that.

 LAST 3 MEETINGS
  • Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal (21.03.2015)
  • Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle (13.12.2014)
  • Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle (28.04.2014)
FACTFILE
  • The two clubs first met on 1 August 1893, a 2-2 draw in the Second Division.
  • Newcastle have not defeated Arsenal at St. James' Park since December 2005.
  • Olivier Giroud has scored eight goals in five starts against Newcastle.
INJURIES
  • Wilshere, Welbeck, and Rosický have been ruled out; Koscielny and Mertesacker face late fitness tests.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI 
  • Cech; Monreal, Gabriel, Chambers, Bellerin; Coquelin, Cazorla; Alexis, Ozil, Walcott; Giroud. 
PREDICTION 
After a sputtering start, Arsenal simply have to smash Newcastle to allay growing fears. Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal.