Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Can the same team take three points? – Newcastle preview

As we head towards the first Interlull of the season, a trip to Newcastle provides us a chance to forget about our goalscoring impotence at home.

The key team issue is whether or not Laurent Koscielny makes it. He was in the training pictures yesterday but a bad back can be a tricky thing to deal with so there are no guarantees he’ll be fit to play. It appears as if Per Mertesacker is going to miss the game through illness.

If the regular first choice duo don’t make it, then it’ll be a repeat of Monday’s pairing of Calum Chambers and Gabriel. Obviously there were some scary moments in that first half, but again the manager has backed the 20 year old to come good from that experience despite the fact he’s struggled a bit over the last few months:

He has lost a bit of confidence compared to the player he was last year. I have spoken to him and he’s a strong footballer, a dedicated player who is ready to work day and night. He has the talent to be a good player.

It’s easy to forget how promising he looked when he first arrived, and his difficulties since are not uncommon for young players, but if he gets the nod today there’ll be an expectation of a much more assured performance from him. It’s one thing understanding why things don’t go quite right, but ultimately there’s a level you have to be at to play for this club, or in this league, and he has to show he’s ready for it.

Further forward I do wonder if anything will change. Personally, I’d be inclined to start Alexis up front, bring Oxlade-Chamberlain back into midfield, and shift Ozil to a slightly more left-leaning position. He’d obviously still have room to float about as he likes to, but it just feels as if the team needs a bit of something more than ‘Go out and do what you did in the second half against Liverpool but this time actually score’.

I don’t believe there’s any complacency or anything like that, but let’s use the depth of this squad to help make things better. Oxlade-Chamberlain offers pace, power and creativity down the right hand side, having Ramsey back in the middle puts him in best position, and I’m sure Alexis can do a job up top where his movement and underrated aerial ability makes him a real threat.

However, what I might do and what Arsene Wenger will do are two very different things. I suspect he’ll start with the same front 6 in the same positions, looking for them to do to Newcastle what they did to Palace. My main worry is that if we are trying to change things late on, and we’re looking for an all-important goal, we just don’t have enough on the bench to find it.

But hey, maybe that’s me looking at the worst case scenario. Giroud has 8 goals against Newcastle since he joined the club, and it’s one of those weird things in football that you can’t really explain. Sometimes certain players score often against certain clubs (Pires v Sp*rs, van Persie got lots against Blackburn, I think), so that might well play a part.

Giroud’s defensive ability in a team shorn of its two main centre-halves might also enter the manager’s thinking, because we’re not the biggest side without them, but I guess we’ll find out in due course what decisions he’s made.

If we can play like we did in the second half against Liverpool and add a bit of offensive efficiency then there’s no reason why those players can’t do what’s required. There were at least two great chances missed in that period, so perhaps with everyone that little bit sharper after getting another game under their belts we’ll be better in front of goal.

What’s clear is that our home form has made this game all the more important. To go into the Interlull, and ahead of the transfer deadline on Tuesday, without three points will make the next period of time particularly challenging. It’s never an easy game up there, and there’s some real pressure on, so we’ll see how we can respond to that.

Not much else going this morning, so it’s all about today’s game. If you haven’t had a chance yet to listen to this week’s Arsecast you can find it on yesterday’s post, or here. There’s plenty of stuff to keep you going before the game, including discussion of transfers (haha), and lots more.

For the game we will have a live blog, of course, so check back here for a post with all the details or you can bookmark our default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.

Right then, breakfast, dog walk, some podcast listening, then football. Come on you reds.

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