After earning just 30 points from 38 league games in 2015, Newcastle kick-off what will hopefully be a more successful 2016 at the Emirates against the league leaders, who for comparison took home 81 points over the same period. So we’ll probably start the year as we ended the last one, with yet another loss.
At the half-way point of the season, we’re currently 18th with 17 points from 19 games, two points short of Swansea / safety. Arsenal top the table on goal difference over Leicester, both of whom are on 39 points.
“It’s definitely one of our biggest tests of the season. They (Arsenal) have had some injuries but they’re still maintaining their form and getting results. At this stage, I’d say they’re certainly favourites for the title – but it’s only half-time. But I believe in the squad that we have. They’ve shown already that they can compete with some of the biggest sides in the league and I expect them to put in a performance this weekend.”
– Steve McClaren
On the subject of performing against the biggest sides, our most recent win came in our last trip to North London, a 2-1 victory over Tottenham, since which we’ve drawn with fellow relegation fodder Aston Villa, and lost to bottom half West Brom and Everton.
“Newcastle is a very exciting project because it’s a very big club and it’s a fantastic and exciting job for a manager like Steve McClaren, but it is a long-term job. This club has a huge potential and in six months it’s impossible to transform a club of that stature into a club competing for the Premier League.
“Give him time. I know that patience is not the first quality in our society but, unfortunately to be successful, you need it. If you look at their squad, they have good players in all areas so they are a dangerous team to play at home.”
– Arsene Wenger
Unless we have a man sent off 20 minutes in and then score the decisive own goal, as we did in August.
Vurnon Anita’s hamstring injury picked up against West Brom rules him out, while Rob Elliot, who missed that game at the last moment due to illness, remains a doubt. Rolando Aarons, Emmanuel Rivière, and Sylvain Marveaux are all back in training and nearing returns, but aren’t expected to play a part.
Papiss Cissé, Massadio Haïdara, Tim Krul, Gabriel Obertan, Steven Taylor, and – hopefully Wolves-bound – Mike Williamson all remain out of contention.
As for the hosts, they may have Matheiu Flamini return to action, although Mikel Arteta and Alexis Sanchez aren’t expected to make it. Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Tomas Rosicky, and Jack Wilshere are all sidelined. Mathieu Debuchy is expected to be making his way towards the door, with Roma being touted as his destination.
The injury to Anita will force McClaren to shake things up in a midfield he’s tended not to tinker too much with, although the obvious and sensible option is to throw Tioté into the middle in a straight swap. Steve was happy to name the same starting line-up twice in 48 hours, so I don’t see him doing anything drastic here. It’d be nice to see De Jong on the pitch at the same time as the usual front four.
We’re going to get slaughtered. 5-1.
Where to Watch / Listen
The match will not be televised live in the UK. Local radio commentary, as always, is on BBC Newcastle, with Absolute Radio covering the game nationally.
How do you think we’ll get on in this game? Have your say in our discussion thread.
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