The defeat to the Scousers by the Tiny Totts has given us somewhat of an opportunity this evening. Victory sends us two points clear of them and Man United and of ever the Arsenal players needed an incentive this could be it when we play Newcastle at 8pm.
I’m certainly not one to wish Liverpool any success and indeed I have everything crossed that they slip up somewhere, but their win yesterday served its purpose, providing of course that Arsenal do the business on our own turf.
This is one of only three remaining home games we have this season and as a result feels like it should be one that we should be capitalising on. Newcastle are by no means age and Benitez will be keen to stress that to his players but if Arsenal really are going to get in to the top four this season then this is a game we simply cannot drop points in. Even a draw will feel like a missed opportunity so I hope that we have a collective of players ready to take the opportunity when it comes tonight.
The team news from the weekend looks as positive as it can be. Question marks over Ramsey and Xhaka have been played down by the club and Emery and as such I’ll be hoping that both start tonight. I do wonder what formation he’ll go with though. Will he try to replicate the format against Rennes by going for three at the back? It’s fair to say that it had the desired effect and also help to persuade a few skeptics (of whom I have been one in the past) over the 3-5-2 formation.
I suspect we might see that tonight because it offers a little more protection with our midfield two and if you go with a back three then you can tell Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles to impact the play in the final third more than the defensive third of the pitch. It also offers more protection for a Xhaka and Ramsey midfield two and allows you to get all of Özil, Auba and Laca in. If Newcastle sit deep and look to be compact defensively as we’d expect an organised Benitez team to be, then we need people who can unpick locked defences and for me that includes Mesut Özil. This feels like his kind of game; at home, against a team who will be organised, lower half of the league, it all feels like the kind of game you’d expect him to excel at but the ability to accurately predict Emery’s Arsenal is as difficult as trying to understand the non-offside call for Chelski’s farcical equaliser yesterday.
We need goals and plenty of ’em and that’s why I’m hoping he goes with the two main men up top, although I could understand if he decided to rotate a bit, even though both should be fresh after a week since at least one of them played competitive football. If he goes with Laca up top and no Auba he could opt for Mkhitaryan and Iwobi either side and for once this season I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Both appear to have hit a bit of form and if both can carry that through to tonight and the remainder of the season then let’s have them on the pitch more often than not.
It would give us a different look too going forward. Iwobi will drive at the full back or centre half on Newcastle’s right hand side, where as Mkhi would drift, but still offer more width than a front three of Auba, Laca and Özil. It would place more emphasis on getting at Newcastle’s full backs and as we discussed on the radio show last Monday with a Newcastle fan, that might be one of their weaknesses that could be exploited, especially if Manquillo starts.
Emery will have done his homework on the opposition and with more time to study them in depth we must certainly hope that he has a set plan for them. Whether the players can execute said plan remains to be seen but with the form we’ve been in one hopes that we will see an Arsenal team tonight with a bit of confidence and swagger about us.
Newcastle have threats of their own however. Random will prove a physical character for Sokratis and Koscielny whilst Ayoze Perez is a rapid player who I’ve always liked. He’s got a goal or two in him and with our back line loving to give an opponent a one-on-one with Leno this season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone like Perez break an offside trap or two. With Almiron impressing as their playmaker too we need to be wary of his vision. I just hope that we don’t give him too much space to pick the right pass.
We need intensity from the start tonight. A settling of the nerves with an early goal would be great but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a cagey affair when this game kicks off at 8pm. Newcastle are unlikely to go gung-ho on us at any stage and certainly not in the opening exchanges, so there might be some need for a bit of patience tonight. Let’s hope the players and the crowd are prepared for it.
Fingers crossed for three points for The Arsenal tonight.