The moment we’ve all been waiting for is just around the corner as competitive football returns to St James’ Park when the Premier League kicks off tomorrow.
It’s an early TV debut for us aswell as ESPN have picked our opening game against Arsenal for live TV coverage although the game does kind of leave a sour taste in my mouth as, unfortunately, I’ll be at work until 10:30pm so will miss the opening day of the season. I’m not happy about it but I suppose it has to be done so I can pay the bills and keep Mrs Toonsy in the lifestyle that she has become accustomed to.
Anyway, enough moaning from me. Quite frankly there has been enough moaning over the summer months to last a lifetime and tomorrow will give us the chance to see just what we have in terms of players. Incidentally it will also give Arsenal fans a chance to see what they have in terms of players with the rumoured departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively dominating the headlines.
More about that later though. As always, I’ll start with the home team.
Alan Pardew only has Hatem Ben Arfa as a confirmed absentee for the visit of Arsenal tomorrow evening. Danny Guthrie and Shane Ferguson are back in training so are technically fit, although being match fit is something that is probably just out of reach of the pair at the moment. The same applies to Sylvain Marveaux, who by Pardew’s own admission is a little bit short of fitness.
With Jose Enrique now confirmed as a Liverpool player it leaves us with a gaping hole at the left-back position. The debate about letting a player go without a replacement will rage on but for now I guess we just have to hope for the best.
It’s still unclear whether or not Joey Barton will feature although if I had to take a guess right now I’d probably plump with him sitting this game out thanks to the continual saga and resultant fallout from Twittergate.
However we do have a raft of players who are in line to make their Premier League bow in front of the home crowd with Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba apparently “ready to rumble” (hopefully not like this however) and Gabriel Obertan waiting to make his debut.
Bearing that in mind, I’d probably go with a team that looks a bit like this:
Newcastle: Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Gutierrez*, Dan Gosling, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Gabriel Obertan*,Demba Ba, Leon Best.
* I’m aware that both players are out of position, but that has to be better than playing Ryan Taylor!
Moving onto the visitors now, who have been going through their own tough spell of late with questions being asked by their fans with regard to Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy.
One time Toon target Gervinho looks likely to make his competitive Arsenal debut, but that isn’t the big news regarding the visit of Arsene Wenger’s men.
Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri have both been left out of the matchday squad with impending to moves to Barcelona and Manchester City on the horizon, allegedly.
In a further blow to the beleagured boss he will be with Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere whilst Robin Van Persie and Thomas Vermaelen will undergo late fitness tests ahead of the match.
I’ll not take a stab at what the Arsenal line up will be as, quite frankly, I wouldn’t have a clue, so how about some stats instead?
Newcastle have not beaten Arsenal on home turf since 2005 when Nobby Solano scored an 82nd minute winner. Since then there have been four defeats and just the one draw – and what a draw that was!
This will be the 8th time in 18 Premier League seasons that we have started with a home fixture. We’ve won four, drawn one, and lost two opening day home fixtures since 1993.
All in all I’m glad the waiting is finally over. I’d have liked us to have started with an “easier” game but then we’d end up facing Arsenal with their full, erm, arsenal of players available.
They may be weakened but they are still a top four team and still have players who can come in and perform. Remember this is the first time that some of our lads will have played together aswell so it’s not all tipped in our favour.
I’d settle for anything other than defeat right now to be honest.
Howay the lads!
Date/Kick-off: Saturday 13th August – 5:30pm
Ground: St James’ Park.
Man in the middle: Peter Walton.