Morning folks – hope we’re all in fine Friday form, despite the bad taste of Wednesday night’s defeat. On the one hand it left a bitter taste and that’s still circulating my mind, body and soul. But on the other hand we have the opportunity to expel that and replace it with the flavourful taste of victory, by beating Newcastle at home at the Emirates tomorrow. It’s a game that we will need to prepare ourselves for, because they’ll be just like Porto on Wednesday; diving, timewasting, cheating and moaning. We know it because we saw it earlier in the season and then on New Year’s Day last year when they came for a 0-0 and literally wasted a third of the match with their antics. I truly believe that the rules which came in during the summer were starting to be formed as a result of that game, because it was one of the worst examples of it I’ve ever seen. And it happened from about the first five minutes. I don’t know if you get the whole picture on TV but I was in the ground that night and it was abundantly clear to everyone what was doing and what the tactic was, yet the referee – like Wednesday night – wasn’t strong enough in the early stages and didn’t get his card out to show that he was having none of it.

I wonder if Arteta and the players have a word with the referees pre game or as it’s kicking off. I would. Nothing major, just say to them “ref, can you just keep an eye on the time wasting for me, please? This lot had the ball out of play for around 30 minutes here last season and I have a feeling they might try it again today”. Just something as simple as that where you can be civil, polite, state your case and sew the seed, could be vitally important in at least making the referee think. And then the first time it happens, probably in the first five minutes, you just make sure you’re near the referee and say “see? I told you” and shrug your shoulders. That’s the kind of counter-action that I hope we see from the inevitable sh*thousery of Newcastle tomorrow. Let’s get them on the back foot early on and do our bit to stop the shenanigans.

I wonder if Arteta is asked about that in today’s press conference? He said after the game that they were aware of what they would do and he also commented on the ’35 – 37 fouls’ that kept stopping the game. There will no doubt be questions from the reporters about ‘bouncing back’ from the disappointment of defeat, they’ll probably ask about the mood in the dressing room, but I wonder if they’ll probe enough about the similarities in game plan that we’re likely to see? I hope so.

Of course we also want to hear the team news and getting some of those players back fit in the shape of Partey, Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus must be the immediate concern. Arteta made just one sub on the night in the shape of Jorginho and the bench looked a little light again, with only Fabio Vieira returning from the weekend game against Burnley. It means that these players are having to turn around games quite quickly and you wonder how much rotation will be needed to keep some of those players fresh. If we have the likes Gabriel Jesus or Zinchenko back then you’d think they might play some part, but having them on from the start feels unlikely given that they’ve been out for three weeks. But what we do want to hear is that Arteta says that they are good enough for a spot on the bench to give us options. We’ve hardly been given any news on the extent of these injuries and so we have no idea whether we’ll be without them again, but if you think about how they weren’t pictured in training and we only played two days ago, it feels like a stretch to expect them tomorrow evening. Let’s just hope for better news.

As for Newcastle, they’ll have their own issues to contend with, as Pope is still out, Wilson is now out until nearly the end of the season, with Isak having also been unfit along with Willock. I suspect both will get a place in the squad though as they’ll also be without Joelinton, who is one of their sh*thousing generals so that will hopefully be good news for us. They will still have the likes of Guimaraes and Almiron to can that baton though, so I am expecting a bit of play acting to play out at times tomorrow evening. We just need to make sure we bring the noise. An 8pm kick off will mean the stadium is rocking and despite the fact that some of our players might be feeling a little bit of fatigue from playing midweek, you have to hope that the atmosphere and roar of the home crowd will help to give our players that extra five to ten percent that we need to get over the line in what will be a tough game. Newcastle have played 12, won three, drawn two and lost seven away from home this season and they’re averaging just over two goals conceded per match. However they’ve scored 22 away and so they’ll fancy their chances of bagging a goal or two tomorrow. Last season they had the meanest defence but when you look at their last three matches – 4-4 draw, 3-2 win, 2-2 draw, it kind of feels like they’re not as steady and perhaps want to come out a bit. That is the hope anyway and when you look at their xG allowed stats, they have the second worst in the league, so that suggests they do give up more chances. That’s also backed up in the fact that behind the bottom three newly promoted teams and West Ham, Newcastle have given up the most shots on target against this season with 132. That’s an average of over five per game and hopefully we’ll get chances tomorrow because on Wednesday Porto limited us to zero on target. If we do then you’d fancy us to bag some goals.

I suspect they’ll want to revert to last season’s type and engage in a compact unit springing traps, however, so more on how we approach this one in the morrow I think. For now it’s a day of work and waiting for us to get that all important team news.

Catch you all tomorrow.