You know those fans that say they have a “2nd club”, or a “soft spot” for another team? I’m not one of them. I’ve always seen it as Arsenal are my team, and all the rest are simply opponents – some more irksome than others.
However, if I were to be forced at gun point to name another team I have even the slightest affinity for, it would be Newcastle. I’m not entirely sure why that is. One of my earliest football memories is watching replays of that famous Ronnie Radford goal for Hereford against Newcastle in the FA Cup (I was born 6 years after it happened). Perhaps I felt sorry for them.
Today, however, they’re just another opponent, and one I’d expect us to beat. They’ve a decent strike force in Cisse and Ba, and any team that can score 3 at Old Trafford shouldn’t be taken lightly. Alan Pardew’s side is filled with good players, but results haven’t gone their way.
The Arsenal team news is good. Rosicky and Giroud return from illness, and even long-term absentees Diaby and Santos are alleged to be returning to full training. We have what is very close to a fully fit squad.
As was the case in the previous fixture, then main selection headache will be wether Arsene starts with Theo as the lone forward. If Newcastle deploy similar tactics to the ones used in last season’s fixture – Tim Krul time wasting after 30 minutes, and a defence-minded approach – then I would fear for Walcott being rendered useless by a lack of space. If they come to make a game of it, if they don’t sit deep and try to keep a clean sheet, then our contract-dodging speedster could be very effective.
It’s difficult to predict what the manager will do, but I believe he won’t want to disrupt a winning side, and the 11 that take the field will be the same as the Wigan game:
Having not played on Boxing Day has seen us lose ground on the top four and slip to 7th in the table. At kick-off today (5.30pm) it’s possible we will have dropped further down the table, should results in other games not go our way. The team should be rested and focused for the game, and a victory is crucial in keeping up with the Champions League spots.
My prediction is a 6-5 roller-coaster of a game with 5 sendings-off and 3 penalties. Every time I predict a routine win, something bizarre happens. Hopefully this will have the opposite effect.
If you fancy putting some money down on the result, head over to Bet Victor. £25 worth of free bets awaits those of you that sign up a new members. You can register here.
Lastly today, a special word must go to Pat Rice; a loyal servant to Arsenal football club who has been awarded an MBE in the new year’s honours list. As I’m sure you will all agree, richly deserved indeed.
That’s all for today, folks. Tomorrow I shall return with a full match review. In the meantime, the comments section awaits your views on the game, the team selction, and your preferred choice of striker. Let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading.