THIS IS IT.
This is it. The final day of the season and Champions League qualification rests on this result. If we win: we qualify – and depending on Chelsea’s result against Everton we may have a third place playoff decider. (Although that is very unlikely.) If we don’t win, it falls into the hands of them down the road. I don’t even want to think about that though.
We last beat Newcastle United at St James’ Park in 2009; a 3-1 win, with goals from Nickas Bendtner, Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri, and even included a fine penalty save from Manuel Almunia.
Our trips up North have always proved testing, but with Newcastle now safe from relegation they have nothing to play for. Nonetheless, their squad is one with immense talent. I am a big admirer of Davide Santon and Yohan Cabaye, although their whole squad has underperformed this season and have only just steered clear of relegation.
Our last meeting with Newcastle at St James’ Park finished a rather uninspiring 0-0. This time around however I see nothing other than an Arsenal win although, I will admit I said the same about Wigan Athletic and at half time I was slightly concerned. The performance in the second half I’m pleased to say diminished any fears I had. We’ve clocked up an impressive 23 points from our last nine games and havevwon the last four away from home, albeit in not the best fashion. That said, we wouldn’t have won those games last year and I am pleased to see that we have started to grind out results especially away from home. I think this is in no part down to the blend of experience we now have within the squad, namely Per Mertesacker, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta.
“OH NO! ZAT LITTLE GRANDMOTHER IST SCHNELLER ZAN I AM!“
I have had tedious arguments with friends in regards to Mertesacker. We all know he’s not the quickest guy over 10 yards… hell, I’d back my nan to outpace him over 25 yards!… but his simple passing out from the back and safety first approach is fine with me. He is a rock and it is no surprise to me that Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are unbeaten in their last 17 starts together, winning 10 and drawing seven. With Olivier Giroud back from suspension, I’d expect to see him on the bench. Lukas Podolski had a quiet but effective game against Wigan, scoring twice and did enough to retain his place in the starting XI for me.
The decision to give Alan Pardew an eight-year contract was met at the time with plaudits from the footballing world that a manager could be trusted to build and mould a football team without fear of the ever present axe from above – now, however, that could prove to be a foolish move from Newcastle. I believe that Pardew has done all he can at Newcastle and agree with Karen Brady that he does this with all of the clubs he has managed. Pardew comes in, makes a few signings and the squad play good football for a season or two; then the slump sets in and his teams go downhill fast. I wonder what the reaction would be should Arsene Wenger be handed an 8-year deal?
We all know the ramifications of not finishing fourth. It would put a real dent in our ambitions of signing proven quality, not to mention the pockets of the club. I’ve seen some fans state they hope we don’t qualify for the Champions League in the hope it makes the club realise just how far we are from competing for the Premier League again. If we don’t qualify, I strongly believe it would be the start of a Liverpool-esque situation that will see us slide slowly but surely down the league for a good few years. It is imperative we get behind the team. Our away support is the best in the land and I know the travelling boys will be in full song come tomorrow at 4pm.
For one last time this season, Up The Arsenal!
Possible Starting Lineups –
Arsenal Subs From
Fabianski, Mannone, Martínez, Jenkinson, Monreal, Yennaris, Miquel, Vermaelen, Squillaci, Coquelin, Gnabry, Oxlade-Chamberlin, Arshavin, Giroud, Arteta
Newcastle Subs From
Alnwick, Santon, Amalfitano, Perch, Williamson, Bigirimana, Anita, Campbell, Sammy Ameobi, Marveaux
Arsenal Miyaichi (ankle, Aug), Diaby (knee, Dec)
Newcastle Shola Ameobi (knee, Aug), Vuckic (knee, Aug), Haïdara (hamstring, Aug), Krul (shoulder, Aug), Sissoko (knee, Aug), R Taylor (knee, Aug 2013)
Betting Tips –
- The last four meetings between these sides have seen 21 goals scored at an average of over 5 a game.
- SkyBet price Newcastle at 5/1 and Coral price us at 4/7 (best prices).
- Arsenal have not conceded in their last five away games out of seven.
- Both teams have not scored at St. James’ park in the last four out of five games.
By Ryan Barker follow me on twitter @RyArsenal