Tomorrow Arsenal travel to St. James’ Park looking for atonement against a rapidly depleting Newcastle squad. Few teams have been hit with injuries harder than the Geordies have right now. Combine that with the January loss of leading scorer Andy Carrol, and Alan Pardew will struggle to field a capable team. With United playing the evening match on Saturday, Arsenal can put some pressure on a United team that has struggled away from home this season.
Former ‘keeper ‘Mad’ Jens Lehmann had this to say about new Arsenal #1 Szczesny pre-match: “He has got everything he needs apart from the experience and the maturity, so he needs to work hard. He is very talented.”
Alan Pardew had this to say: “It’s a terrific game and will probably be a sell-out, or close to it, so it will be a cracking atmosphere. We’re really looking forward to it.”
Newcastle Team News:
Newcastle will be without Ben Arfa, Dan Gosling, Ryan Taylor, Steven Taylor, Steven Ireland, and Ameobi. Cheik Tiote returns from a 3 match ban.
Newcastle’s Last League Line-up: Harper, Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Barton, Nolan, Guthrie, Gutierrez, Best (Lovenkrands 72), Ameobi (Ranger 13)
Player to watch: Joey Barton
Despite being a total thug, Joey Barton is a decent enough midfielder. Without him, I doubt Newcastle would be sitting in the top half of the table. Look for him to pull the strings for the home side, as well as putting in a few nasty challenges. Too bad we won’t have Nasri to take care of him, again.
Arsenal Team News:
From Tuesday, Arsenal have only picked up one new injury, Alex Song. Since Diaby came in when Song got injured against Everton, I think he’ll also be the one to slot in on Saturday. I’m not sure who will start for Nasri. Logic says Arshavin after his goal Tuesday, but Arsene might go for Rosicky, who could offer better protection for Clichy in a tough away match. Fabianski is out for the season after shoulder surgery, while Denilson, Nasri, and Vermaelen remain out. Also, Sebastian Squillaci returns from suspension.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Diaby, Wilshere, Fabregas, Arshavin, Walcott, van Persie
Player to watch: Theo Walcott
I think Theo will have a big game tomorrow. If Cesc can get him involved early, Walcott could easily cause a lot of problems for a weak Newcastle back line, who also recently struggled to contain Tottenham’s speedy penguin, Aaron Lennon.
Match Facts & Stats
Robin van Persie has opened the scoring in the 13th minute of Arsenal`s last two away league games, in which the Gunners have gone on to win 3-0.
Gael Clichy could make his 250th appearance for Arsenal, and Abou Diaby his 150th.
Only the top four clubs have scored more league goals than Newcastle this season, with Kevin Nolan and the now-departed Andy Carroll accounting for 21 of their 36 goals so far.
Stats from Orbinho and the BBC.
Phil Dowd is the head official for this one.
This is going to be a tough fixture. With Carrol gone and Ameobi injured, their attacking options are limited. If we can score 2 goals, I don’t think this depleted Newcastle team can score more than 1 on us. In fact, they haven’t scored more than 1 in over a month now. Though, I’m just praying for any kind of a win.
12/2 (Sat) – Wolves (h) – Premier League
16/2 (Wed) – Barcelona (h) – Champions League
19/2 (Sat) – Leyton Orient (a) – FA Cup