Following last weekend’s outstanding win away at Leicester, the ‘Opposition Opinion’ is back with some thoughts from North London ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Tyneside tomorrow.
As ever, we are looking to bring you a view from the other side before this weeks game, interviewing an opposing fan to gain their opinions on NUFC, some insights into their own side and their thoughts on of our upcoming match.
This week we’ve been speaking to Gunners fan Chris, with him having the following to say ahead of tomorrow’s Super Sunday clash at St James’:
Q1) What sort of shape do you feel you’re in coming into Sunday’s game? I see your league form has steadied, but could your long Europa League trip to Russia on Thursday play a big part in this one?
“I think we are in good shape at the moment, the best one possible taking into consideration the poor season we have had overall.
“Doing well in the Europa League has boosted our confidence and it’s good to see the team playing well again, there’s still a lot of work to do and we still have plenty of dodgy moments.
“It’s no secret that our defence has been poor at times so Newcastle will try and put a lot of pressure on us.
“We’re familiar with playing on the Sunday’s after the EL on Thursdays so I don’t think it will have much of an impact.”
Q2) We’re in really good form, with last weekend’s win at Leicester all but securing our safety. We’ve won three on the bounce at home and will be full of confidence for this one. We’ll be bang up for it – do you think you will be?
“I think we will be up for it too, yes, but we have let opponents bully us too often so that worries me.
“There’s been a lot of questions asked about our away form and it’s not been great at times.
“Put it this way, we need to be prepared, like I mentioned above, I think Newcastle will try and put a lot of pressure on us and especially our defence.
“If Newcastle start doing that, we will struggle, we’ve seen that a lot this season. We will need to be solid defensively and just play our football, keep it calm and I think we’ll be alright.”
Q3) What do you make of Newcastle’s current side and the thought of facing this Rafa Benitez side on Sunday? Who do you see as the strengths and weaknesses in this NUFC side?
“I think Rafa has done an exceptional job, with all of the uncertainty around Mike Ashley and how transfers were being handled, you’ve got to give him a huge amount of credit.
“I’m not sure Rafa got everyone he wanted in the summer and in January but he’s done fantastic with the group he’s got. I must admit, before the season, I had Newcastle to go straight back down again, I just thought they weren’t strong enough and the player recruitment was all over the place.
“I think Newcastle have been good defensively but I’d still say you could improve that area in the long run as obviously it’s been a problem before when you were in the prem.
“You also haven’t had that main striker who always looks a threat. You miss Ba and Cisse, I thought they were great, if you can get players like them again then I think you’ll be ok.
“You’re on a good run so by all means it won’t be easy but yet again, so are we. I think it will be an interesting game.”
Q4) Likewise, who are the players to watch out for in your Arsenal side? Anyone in-form players for us to watch out for and anyone you’d be looking to ‘get at’ if you were Rafa Benitez?
“Definitely Aubameyang, he has been a breath of fresh air since his arrival. His work rate, movement, pace and finishing is top class and no doubt he will cause your defence a few problems. Welbeck has been great recently too, scoring goals and looking dangerous.
“Of course I can’t forget Ozil, Ramsey either. Got to mention Elneny, he has been class in midfield, he may play a part but depends on if Xhaka is fit. Xhaka is a player that has been pretty average since his arrival last season although more recently he’s been much better.
“As I’ve said and as you’ve probably seen yourself, our defence has been very poor and we always look all over the place. It’s without a doubt an area we need to massively improve in the summer.
“Cech has also been a funny player for us, one week he’ll make some important saves and have a good game, the next he’ll be poor. He’s passed his best, no doubt about it. We need someone younger next season who’s more sharp.”
Q5) How do you see the match panning out? Score prediction? Given your fragility at the back and shocking away form, this is a game we may be quietly confident of winning..
“I see it being quite an even match, Newcastle will be aware of our away form and defence so they will look to take advantage in that area.
“Like I said above, both teams are high on confidence at the moment so it’s going to be interesting.
“I feel as if our attack will cause you a few problems, Aubameyang’s pace could catch one or two off guard. We’ve got to be solid at the back though because if not, I don’t think it will be a pleasant afternoon for us.”
Q6) With the season drawing to a close, what are your predicted league positions for us both and your THREE sides to do down..?
“For Newcastle I think they will finish around where they are now, I can’t see a massive change to their position.
“For us, I’m hoping we can just get in front of Chelsea and finish 5th, that would be nice. However we’ll probably have to settle for 6th, we need Burnley to stop putting the pressure on us, they’ve been brilliant this season.
“I think Stoke, West Brom will go down, I’m not sure about the other…I’ve got a feeling Southampton could bounce back and either Palace, Huddersfield or Swansea will fall.”
Q7) You wouldn’t believe it, but Newcastle were pushing to sign both Aubameyang and Lacazette several years ago before they really caught they eye at St Etienne and Lyon respectively. We could’ve probably had the pair for £30m, but ,in typical NUFC style, they’re worth £60m each a few years later after several successful seasons. What have you made of their careers in England so far with Arsenal?
“Yes, I can remember when Aubameyang was at St Etienne, we tried to get him then too but it didn’t happen in the end.
“Obviously Lacazette came to us in the summer and scored on his debut against Leicester, that was a good moment and then we all thought he was going to be doing this week in week out. Unfortunately he struggled a little bit, getting substituted every game on 70/80mins, but it’s since come out he had an injury. His link up play is great, he’s quick and is a clinical finisher. Since he’s come back from injury he’s been a different player.
“With Auba, I mentioned above, he’s been a breath of fresh air. He works hard, he’s a team player and he has so much quality. His pace is terrifyingly good and his finishing is world class. So far I am happy with them.”q
We’ll be back next week with the thoughts of an Everton fan ahead of our trip to Goodison Park a week on Monday.