Newcastle head to The Emirates tomorrow evening as 4th meets 6th in this clash of contenders for Europe.
I never though I would be saying that at the start of the season!
Anyway, it’s Alan Pardew’s 50th Premier League game in charge of United and he will be going to the Emirates looking for a win if you look at his pre-match chitter-chatter.
Of the 49 league games under his stewardship we’ve won 18, drawn 17 and lost 14 giving Pardew an ultimate win percentage of 36% although if you purely take into account the results of this season, with what this starting to be his own team, his percentage lifts to 44%.
Perhaps the most intriguing thing however is the loss percentage – it’s only 28% which is pretty good to be honest and equates to us losing ten games a season roughly. It would also equate to us picking up 54 points a season, which would put us in with a shout of Europe pretty much every season. Once again, if you average it out to results this season alone, using the 44% win percentage, that points total would rise to 63 points, which would pretty much be enough for Europe.
Anyway, how about some team news?
Arsene Wenger will be without Abou Diaby, Francis Coquelin, Jack Wilshere, Per Mertesacker and Emmanuel Frimpong, while Sebastien Squillaci, André Santos, Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun, Aaron Ramsey, and Theo Walcott are all rated as doubtful.
Leon Best, Sammy Ameobi, Sylvain Marveaux, Steve Harper, Nile Ranger and Steven Taylor all remain out, and now we have Peter Lovenkrands added to the list. The Dane has picked up a thigh injury which could mean he has kicked his last ball for the club as his contract runs out in the summer.
Dan Gosling is available for selection despite his red card in the reserve Tyne-Wear derby in midweek.
A lot is being made of how we’ve dipped since the game against Manchester United at the turn of the year. The reality is that we’ve lost just two league games since then so we’re still picking up points, even if the last two home games have only yielded draws.
However Arsenal have hit a purple patch and haven’t lost in the league since the 22nd January – a 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United. They’ve been scoring goals in recent weeks too, with their last two home league games yielding a return of 12 goals.
Any success will largely depend on keeping Robin van Persie quiet. The Dutchman looks a shoe in for the Golden Boot (haha!) this season and tops the scoring stakes with 25 goals.
To keep him quiet we will need to close down the channels and not give Arsenal any space to pick out those killer passes that they like to thread through. Aeriel prowess at the back won’t be the most important factor in this one.
However there is a tendency for teams to try and soak up the pressure that Arsenal will inevitably put on you. It’s great if it can be pulled off, like we did last season, but more often than not you are just inviting problems on yourself.
We need to also make sure that we have an attacking presence. The Arsenal defence has shown throughout the season that they can be got at, which is why I’d play Hatem Ben Arfa from the start in some role. He’s earned it after his second half cameo against Sunderland last week and we could do with someone who will run at the Arsenal defence. Granted it probably means dropping Papiss Cisse, but I just feel we’ll be better off with ball retention by playing Ben Arfa.
Personally I’m not expecting much from the match other than 100% from our players. It’s going to be a tough ask, but if we put in 100% you just never quite know. We’re quite good at springing the odd upset these days but we’ll see.
Arsenal have just beaten Tottenham and AC Milan at the Emirates with a win at Anfield thrown in for good measure. They are a good side, unplayable on their day in fact. I just hope that day isn’t Monday!
Howay the lads!
Date: Monday, 12th March, 2012
Kick-off: 8pm – Live on Sky
Venue: The Emirates Stadium