Arsenal face Newcastle today looking down on everyone from the top of the League, but as we all know ‘there is no such thing as an easy game’ and more in England. Our opponents are flirting with relegation this season but we cannot ignore that their only two wins in their last eight games came against Tottenham and Liverpool, so write them off at your peril.
Arsenal are also not the most consistent team in the world, after breaking a 4-game winning run with that unbelievable 4-0 defeat to Southampton. We bounced back against Bournemouth, but we now need to continue winning against lowly Newcastle tonight. Arsene Wenger believes that his team now has the ‘hunger’ to carry on winning. He said: “I would say we are a team who had a little bit of a difficult start,” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “When you lose the first game at home, it’s always a big blow. But we have had fantastic spirit and have always shown that when we are in trouble we can fight back.
“Overall, when you look at our continuity, 2015 was a positive year because we won the FA Cup, improved our results in the Premier League at the start of the year, continued with that and today we are in a strong position.
“We are hungry – our hunger and desire is very strong. We have survived despite the fact that we have been hit by very bad injuries and have made some fantastic results.
“I’m happy that we could win silverware again – the FA Cup and the Community Shield,” he went on. “And that we are today competing at the top of the Premier League. That’s what I work every day for. To make our fans and everyone who loves the club proud is what pleases me the most.”
“Yes, for 2016 [the target] is now to be the best team,” Wenger continued. “One thing that is very positive is that if we are the best team from January to May, we will be very happy.
“That’s our target, and knowing that the Premier League is an extremely competitive league, and looking at the results around you, of course you know that you need to put in the effort to be competitive in every game.”
So we need to be on the ball this afternoon. Of course we still have Wilshere, Welbeck, Rosicky, Coquelin, Arteta, Cazorla and Alexis out injured, but that doesn’t seem like such a long list any more compared to what we are used to!
Our opponents also have ten players out injured so for once we are in the better position.
But Steve McLaren’s team is still capable of playing well, and Wenger highlighted their danger-men. He said: “First of all they have strikers like Cisse, Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez,”
“Then they have players who can make the difference in the middle of the park, like Sissoko, who is extremely dangerous going forward, especially in transitions on counter-attacks. He’s a very powerful player.
“They have leaders at the back like Coloccini. In Wijnaldum they have a very creative player who can score goals. If you look at the names in the team, you know that this team is a potential threat.”
“Like all the teams who are in an uncomfortable situation psychologically where the confidence is low, they are better away from home,” he said.
“They have no responsibility to build the game, which demands a lot of confidence. They have the qualities to be very strong in transition. That explains why they have made some surprising results away from home.”
We have already discussed the merits of a little bit of rotation, but this is the team that I would like to see on the pitch this afternoon.
Cech; Debuchy, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Ramsey; Campbell, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott.
Bench: Ospina, Mertesacker, Bellerin, Gibbs, Chambers, Iwobi, Giroud
But the fact is that Wenger only seems to rotate when absolutely forced to, so we will probably see Merts, Bellerin and Giroud in the starting XI as usual although I think they all need a rest….
As for the Final score, I am feeling unusually confident going into this one despite my warnings of ‘no easy games’, so I am going to predict a confident 3-1 win over the Magpies. What do you think?