It’s match day, but not as we know it, because I find myself not getting the same nervous sweats as I usually do. Usually an overwhelming feeling of worry sets in.
What if we lose? What happens if we don’t play well? How will that affect our league position?
All of these questions rush through my head in the morning of most match days. But that hasn’t really been the case of late. The feeling that I have in the pit of my stomach this morning is nowhere near the same, because quite frankly, little matters in the league at the moment.
Sure, we could finish below Burnley, who won yesterday to take the gap between us to two points. But given the fact they have a difficult run in for the rest of the season and still have to come to The Emirates, I think we can still afford to drop points.
Don’t get me wrong, I still want us to win and I’ll be at the game today cheering the lads on, but the pressure of winning has subsided and actually it’s a bit of relief if I’m honest.
Perhaps I’m just psychologically setting myself up for defeat today. After all Arsène is clearly going to rotate quite heavily. The team got back to the UK at 5am on Friday morning so if you think about the process of preparing for this game it would have included spending The whole of Friday sleeping, Saturday probably with more recovery, then because it’s a 1.30pm kick off today the players will probably have had to get up early to get themselves to Luton so they could fly up to Newcastle.
It’s a hectic schedule and so I think we’ll see quite a bit of rotation today. Cech probably starts because Ospina is injures and I doubt Wenger will give Macey a shout. If he was going to play the very y’all youngster in these dead rubber games then he’d have done it in matches at home like last weekend. So I think the Czech stopper will start.
Then you’ve got to question what the back four looks like. I think Kolasinac comes in for Monreal and Chambers for Koscielny, but does Wenger finally give Bellerin some rest and shift Calum our wide and start Holding? Chambers is hardly convincing as a full back and Newcastle will play with pace in the shape of Atsu or Kenedy and we’ve seen just how damaging playing against a pacey wide man can be for Chambers when he got roasted against Montero when we played Swansea away a few seasons back.
I can still see him starting Bellerin today. Personally I’m worried that he’s running him into the ground but we have no other natural choice at right back so I think the Spaniard will start.
In front of the back four I think we’ll see Elneny come in and I’d be surprised if it’s Ramsey alongside him. Wilshere hasn’t really been performing of late and he played a big part on Thursday, so I can’t see him starting, so I wonder if Xhaka plays because of little other perceived options? I’d probably be tempted to give Willock a run out but I think Arsène will play Nelson again and I don’t think he’ll want to have too many youngsters starting. So I think he’ll go with the Swiss international.
Then in front of those two I think it’ll be Nelson, Iwobi, plus I have a weird feeling that Arsène will go for Welbeck. If you think about the fact he played on Thursday and he’s also had his fair share of injuries, normally I’d be saying he’d be nailed on to be rotated, like Koscielny and Ramsey. But he’s hit a bit of a purple patch and I think Arsène keeps him in today with Aubameyang obviously leading the line.
So it’ll be a rotated side, but still senior enough, which intrigued me as to how Newcastle approach this game. Benitez will know he’s got a chance of getting at this Arsenal team and we’ve been gifting teams home victories all season. But he’s a naturally pragmatic manager against the bigger clubs and I wonder if he’ll adopt the same ‘pragmatism first’ approach, or whether he sets up to press Arsenal higher up the pitch, force errors, keeping us on the back foot.
If he does press higher then we just need somebody in that midfield to look for the run of Aubameyang because I think he might get a bit more space, so if Newcastle come out at us then don’t be surprised to see a few one-on-ones for the Gabonese forward.
Of course Newcastle could opt to sit and frustrate Arsenal and draw us out and given that we cannot defend for toffee I wouldn’t be surprised to see that, which means we need to see more from the likes of Iwobi and Nelson, particularly as creators of chances in the final third. It puts a little more pressure on Nelson to perform but let’s be honest, if he’s going to make it at Arsenal he needs to be thrown in to see if he can do it, so today’s game can be of use to his development.
It’s another 1.30 kick off and it’ll be a tough game, but we should have the players to do the business, so let’s just see who Arsène opts for.
Catch you all in the morrow.