Feb 052011
 

A mate of mine asked me today what my prediction would be for our game at St James’ Park tomorrow. He suggested that I could expect a romp, a mauling, a stroll in the park; that Newcastle have lost their best player, haven’t replaced him and have a long injury list. He also pointed out that the fat idiot in charge has replaced a successful manager with, well, Alan Pardew.

All valid ponits, and I agree with them all. However, I’m nervous about the game tomorrow. I read today that Arsenal have scored the fewest, and conceded the most goals from set-pieces this season in the Premier League. I had a think about Newcastle’s midfield and names like Nolan, Barton, and Tioté fill me with unease not just for the safety of our players’ tendons, bones, and muscles, but for the nature of the contest. Those are three players you could describe as ‘battling’ midfielders. Without Alex Song, who’s out for this game with a dead leg, I fear that our midfield will become overwhelmed by their strength as we were at the Grove.

Song’s likely replacement is Diaby, though Denilson is certainly a possibility. When we signed the former he was announced as our new Vieira. He hasn;t quite lived up to that billing, and I for one don’t feel that the defensive side of our midfield game is strengthened much when he’s on the pitch. Another thing about Vassiriki Abou Diaby (love the first name!) is that he blows hot and cold. Some days he’s strong in the tackle, accurate with his passing, and makes good driving runs. But other days he’s anonymous. I hope he starts in place of Denilson, but I’ll qualify that by saying that I’d rather an average Denilson performance against a poor game for Diaby. Come on Vassiriki!

I was surprised to see Rosicky start against Everton. I know Nasri’s form would make comparison with any teammate difficult, but for me the little Czech hasn’t had a single game this season – nor a substitute appearance – where you could say that he played well. He’s a great player to have to come on and add a measure of control to midfield passing when we’re ahead, and when he is on form his creative forward passing can be excellent. But he’s hardly on fire at the moment, and I’d rather see him warm the bench, with a midfield three of Wilshere, Fabregas and Diaby.

As I mentioned in my review of the Everton game I was happy to see Arshavin get on the scoresheet. Some say when he has off days that he’s supremely lazy, and doesn’t seem to care. It’s a classic example of the psychological phenomenon called the fundamental attribution error. It’s easy to assign character- and personality-based motives to someone for behaviour that is more likely caused by physical and situational factors. In other words, if he looks lazy and not interested it’s more likely that he’s just having an off day, and just not playing as well as he can, than that he’s actually lazy and not interested. Fickle fans are always quick to slag off a player they perceive as underperforming by labelling him lazy. I don’t think he is, simples as that. He’s now back among the goals, and I hope to see him get another to wipe the idiotic grin off that fat tw*t Ashley.

We’ll have the same back 5 that faced Everton, so I’m expecting:

Szczesny; Clichy – Koscielny – Djourou – Sagna; Wishere – Fabregas – Diaby; Arshavin – v Persie – Walcott.

Odds

In making my predictions and putting my money where my keyboard is, I’m bearing in mind what I said above about the the strength of their midfield, no Alex Song, and their performance at the Grove. It’s reassuring to hear AW say:

They had a fantastic game against us at the Emirates, where they did very well collectively…But they are still a good side, Newcastle. We expect [them] to be up for it against us and so we prepare ourselves to meet a good team.

I should think so too. I just hope that this message is passed on, inwardly digested, and borne out on the pitch by the players, and that we don’t have any complacency drifting into the back of any player’s mind. That would be fatal.

In the face of such pessimism, I’ve plumped for 2-1 at 15/2 with SkyBet. My long shot is the complete opposite of such negativity. When I saw both 7-0 and 7-1 at the very tempting 500/1 with Paddy Power, I couldn’t decide between the two. With the best odds of 6-0 a comparatively measly 175/1 I had to place a few pennies on both those scores, didn’t I!

As for goalscorers, I went for Cesc to score first at 13/2 with Bet365. Never forget he usually takes the pens. Having defended Arshavin in this post, I feel obliged to back him with the odd quid to score first at 7s with Bet365.  If you’re feeling bold then how about Clichy getting his name on the scoresheet first at 66/1 with Coral? Having gone for two polar opposite scoreline wagers, I thought I’d better back that with some spare change. Money down the drain you say? I say “Come on Gaël”.

With ManUre a shoe-in to beat Wolves, let’s hope that Liverpool continue their resurgence, Suarez gets a hat-trick against Chelski and Torres breaks several bones and does both cruciates. But on a more serious note, only 3 points will keep us close on ManUre’s heels. Let’s take ’em from the Toon.

COME ON THE ARSENAL!

Arsenally Yours,

Will

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