And here we are, the first official match day of the year 2016. Hasn’t time passed inordinately fast? Doesn’t the FA Cup win over Villa seem like it was just yesterday? I’m sat here enjoying the delights of my morning cup of tea and having something of a ponder about the speed in which time appears to pass. This in itself isn’t exactly helpful as I’m supposed to be previewing the Newcastle game here – as the title suggests – and not staring into the screen and reminiscing over days gone by.
So, I’ll snap myself out of it and head toward discussing today’s fixture and the peculiar sense of dread I have. Those of you that read this blog when I was posting regularly will know my bowels aren’t a match day friend. Often, and usually without logic, I’ll decide a fixture has disaster written all over it and spend the day assuming all the players will get injured and Arsenal will conspire to lose in spectacular fashion – for example, the games against Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton. The ructions these thoughts stir in my midriff is the stuff of legend.
We should beat Newcastle. Their season has been pretty shambolic for a side that can boast quite a few decent players in the attacking areas. Yet, knowing Arsenal, if there is a difficult way in which we can eventually defeat our opponents, we are sure to take that option. In short, I don’t expect today to be any other than one of those days. I’d love nothing more than to sit down and watch a thoroughly tedious and routine 2-0 victory. I really would. My bowels suggest it won’t go that way. I trust my bowels.
The team news is pretty much as it has been in recent weeks. Callum Chambers will lose his place alongside Aaron Ramsey now that Mathieu Flamini has returned from injury. Other than that slight change, I expect the team to be pretty much, “as you were”. Cech will start in goal behind, Bellerin, Monreal, Koscielny and Mertesacker. Ahead of them will be the shield of Ramsey and Flamini with the attacking players comprising of Campbell, Walcott, Ozil and Giroud. Of course, that’s my best guess, folks. I have no insider knowledge…
Newcastle will come with a plan to harass and disrupt our players as much as possible and do so with physicality. McClaren’s side will sit deep, press in their own half and look to exploit Mertesacker’s lack of pace on the counter – as does everyone. Newcastle are missing almost as many players as we are, so I don’t imagine they’ll come with a cavalier approach and try to outplay us.
With Mesut Ozil at his twinkle-toed best we should be able to find a way through their defence. Get the early goal and I could see more coming as it will leave Newcastle no choice but to open up a bit. However, should they manage to keep us a bay and frustration creeps into our game, we could be in for one of those days. Victory today will cement our position at the top going into so tricky fixtures so 3 points is pretty important. These are the games we can ill-afford to mess up. Time to stand up and be counted.
Before I finish, I though I’d share with you this brain teaser I posted on Twitter yesterday.
Here’s a brain teaser… Could you put together a greatest Arsenal XI of players who never played together?
— James ‘Raul’ Stökes (@JamesRaulStokes) January 1, 2016
In all honesty, I tried for 5 minutes and then got annoyed at my brain, but feel free to have a go yourself and post some of your results in the comments section, along with your thoughts on today’s game and the team line-up.
I’ll return tomorrow to discuss the result and other such things. Until that time, and as always; thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.