Thursday, July 18, 2024

Newcastle preview: Midfield the key …

Morning all.

It’s Newcastle away today, a game that is now one of the toughest in the Premier League. Had Eddie Howe done a good job there? Yes. Is it possible to acknowledge that without mentioning the resources they now have because they are owned by the Saudi Arabian PIF? No. Not for me anyway.

Nevertheless, despite that ownership, I think Newcastle carry this perception that they are somehow an archetypal ‘British’ club. It doesn’t make sense to me, but they play with a physicality and intensity that resonates with that point of view, and I think it also translates into the way their games are officiated. They get away with a lot, especially at home, and that it something we have to be cognisant of today. The crowd will be up for it, the team will look to make a fast start, and Joelinton and Bruno Guimares will be allowed clatter into fouls without censure.

Arsenal will have to compete physically, of course, if you don’t you just get overrun, but much like this game last season, it will come down to how well we use the ball. Not just from an attacking perspective, but in order to slow the game down a bit, take the heat out of the crowd, and then hopefully impose ourselves sufficiently to make the chances we need.

In terms of the team, I think it basically picks itself. The back four should include Takehiro Tomiyasu who didn’t start in midweek, and I think that’s because he’s earmarked to start today. In midfield, I think it will be Jorginho, Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard. I have to admit it’s not my ideal trio for a game like this, but in the absence of Thomas Partey I think it’s the best we’ve got – unless Mikel Arteta decided to put Oleksandr Zinchenko into the ‘left 8’ position, but he’s shown no willingness to do that at any point since the Ukrainian arrived from Man City.

Jorginho can be exposed when the game is played in wide, open spaces, so that’s something we have to try to avoid. However, the presence of Rice and Tomiyasu in those midfield areas, along with William Saliba, Ben White and Gabriel should give us some cover if those transitions happen or the game becomes stretched. It’s easy to forget that for this game last season, Arteta left Partey on the bench, and played Jorginho. We won 2-0. His reasoning afterwards was:

There were question marks because it was going to be really physical but you want to go physicality against physicality, we’d have no chance to win the game, so we had to try for something different. I think he understood the game really well, he’s a really intelligent player, he gives a lot of security to the team.

He was excellent that day, and I think we’re going to need him to be as good again today if we want to come back to North London with all three points. It feels like midfield will be key, if it works, we have what it takes to win this game. If it doesn’t, we could be in trouble.

The wide men are obvious, hopefully the return of a fresher Martin Odegaard will help us be a bit more cohesive, and while he might spring a surprise, I’m expecting the manager to pick Eddie Nketiah up front. He was excellent against Sheffield United last weekend, poor (as were others) against West Ham United in midweek, so I hope it’s a thing he only turns it on against Uniteds at the weekend. On the Premier League website, Adrian Clarke looks at Eddie’s stats away from home which, understandably aren’t as good as those at home, but could still do with a bit of improvement.

On today, Arteta says:

It’s one of the toughest places to go and win. We’ve done it and there is nothing new to it, we know what we’re expecting. It is very clear what they do, what their strengths are, and where the opportunities are for us. We will try to take the game where we want.

While we haven’t been at our absolute best so far this season, we have demonstrated that we’re a difficult team to beat these days. I hope we can show that again today, and in game where the margins are likely to be very tight, we can come out on top in that regard. There won’t be a load of chances, so being clinical with what we do create will be very important. Fingers crossed.

You can hear our preview podcast on Patreon right now, and join us later for live blog coverage, and all the rest on Arseblog News afterwards.

For now, have a good Saturday, and I’ll catch you later for all the action. Until then.

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