Preview by Numbers: Newcastle United v. Arsenal


St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
Saturday, August 29
7:45 a.m. EDT, 12:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Andre Marriner
    • Assistants: Darren Cann and Marc Perry
    • 4th Official: Anthony Taylor
  • This Match, Last Year: Newcastle 1 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 72 Arsenal wins, 66 Newcastle wins, 38 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-D-W // L-W-D
  • Newcastle's League Form: D-L-W // D-L-D
OH GOD!!!!!!!
When it rains, it pours tricky cup drawings...

The Arsenal-Internetosphere, which certainly never panics or exaggerates anything, has been in a full-on tizzy this week after another scoreless home game. And, I don't intend to sugarcoat anything, it certainly is becoming a problem that Arsenal cannot score goals at home. It's not good that Arsenal have already dropped five points at home; the last two Premier League champions only dropped four points at home in the entirety of their title-winning seasons. At the same time, this team is absolutely better than the three results thus far this season have indicated.

Oh, but then Arsenal is drawn away to Tottenham in the third round of the League Cup on Tuesday, then yesterday gets drawn in the same Champions League group as Bayern Munich. The sky is well and truly falling!

Although, a few notes: 1) Spurs haven't won yet this year. 2) Drawing Bayern from Pot 1 prevented Arsenal from getting drawn against tricky German sides from Pot 4. I mean, look at Manchester City's group. 3) We all know how this movie plays out and I look forward to finishing second and drawing some behemoth in the Round of 16.

There's an international break right around the bend (surprise!) but first, Arsenal heads out of London for the first time this season to face Newcastle, who have not yet won in the league this season. Not much else to say about that except for, well, everything that follows in the rest of this preview...

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee,) Welbeck (knee)
Doubts: Mertesacker (illness,) Koscielny (back)

"Go on without us!"
Well, Laurent Koscielny's back... no no, he's probably not returning, I mean he's got a back injury. And the word is Per Mertesacker is "likely to miss" the trip as well. It's a good thing Arsenal have depth at center back this season. It's a bad thing that that depth looked... out of its depth at times on Monday.

Monday's match against Liverpool was the first time since April 16, 2012 that Arsenal started a league match without both Per and Kos; that was a 2-1 loss to Wigan, which included a back four of Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Tom Vermaelen, and Johan Djourou.

A quote I read yesterday stated that Mertesacker is the least likely of the two center backs to feature, even though Per is only "likely" to miss the match, while the prognosis on Koscielny had looked much worse on Wednesday. Seems like a contradiction to me, though the turning of phrase regarding both players from Arsene Wenger stems from the fact that Kos could still theoretically pass a fitness test.

Last year, when Arsenal met Newcastle in December, former Newcastle defender Mathieu Debuchy started alongside Mertesacker at center back.

As for the rest of the squad, there was an update on Danny Welbeck! He "should be back after the international break."

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Placeholder Center Back that I most certainly did not just accidentally leave in here, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Alexis, Ozil, Ramsey, Giroud.

Newcastle Squad News

Out: Riviere (knee,) Marveaux (groin,) Good (hip)
Doubts: Sissoko (hip,) Dummett (hamstring,) Cisse (illness)

Not sure what's happening here. I assume all three players
are suspended in midair due to some sort of witch's curse.
It's odd to write a Newcastle preview where they don't have approximately 30 players out injured, as was the case for both fixtures against Arsenal last season.

There are three definite absences from the Toon lineup: Emmanuel Riviere is expected to be out long term as he might need surgery on a meniscus tear in his knee. Sylvain Marveaux is out until mid-September with a groin injury, though his future with the club has been in doubt for some time. Curtis Good remains out with a hip injury he sustained in February.

Defender Paul Dummett missed all of preseason training after he injured his hamstring on international duty in June; he returned to the bench for the club's midweek cup tie against Northampton Town. Siem de Jong played 90 minutes in that cup tie; it was only the second time in his Newcastle career that he was able to complete the 90.

Moussa Sissoko is a doubt after he missed last week's trip to Old Trafford with a hip problem. Papiss Cisse is 75/25 with an illness. Daryl Janmaat was suspended last week after a red card against Swansea, but will return to the back line tomorrow.

Predicted XI: Krul, Janmaat, Coloccini, Mbemba, Haidara, Anita, Colback, Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Obertan, Mitrovic.

Current Form

Newcastle won a game this week, something they have not
done a lot of since February...
...it was against Northampton Town.
Arsenal's home form is garbage! How garbage is it? It's so garbage that this isn't even a home game and I still feel like I have to talk about it! The 0-0 draw with Liverpool earlier this week marked the fifth league game at the Emirates out of the last six in which Arsenal were held scoreless. Scoreless! That's Liverpool and West Ham from this season that you can add to the list of teams that have kept clean sheets at the Emirates since April; the other three were Chelsea, Swansea, and Sunderland. Arsenal have only found the net at home against West Brom, in that dead rubber match at the end of last year, since the 4-1 win over Liverpool on April 4.

Away from home, however, Arsenal have not lost since February 7 at White Hart Lane (where they will have to travel for their third round League Cup tie next month.) Arsenal have not had the same struggles scoring away from home as they have had at the Emirates; you have to go back to New Year's Day to find the last time Arsenal were held scoreless in a road fixture.

Newcastle have won just once in their last 14 league fixtures, dating back to last season; they won on the final day of the year against West Ham, 2-0. An eight match losing streak in March and April thrust Newcastle into relegation danger and the near-total collapse led to the sacking of caretaker manager John Carver in June. Ex-England manager Steve McClaren is in charge now; with England he was, of course, most well known for failing to qualify for the 2008 Euros.

The Toon have yet to win in the league so far this season, though they did pick up a 2-2 draw with Southampton on opening day and took a 0-0 draw from Old Trafford last weekend. They lost 2-0 at Swansea in the season's second week, while earlier this week, won their second round League Cup tie over League Two's Northampton Town, 4-1.

Match Facts

Olivier Giroud has scored so many times against Newcastle,
I was unsure which match this was from. Then, I realized this
wasn't last year's kit, so it's from the year before.
Newcastle were one of only seven teams in the league whom Arsenal defeated twice last season. At the Emirates in December, both Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla scored twice in a 4-1 victory for the Gunners. Ayoze Perez scored for Newcastle in the 63rd minute, which had pulled the score back to 3-1 at the time. Cazorla scored the finally goal with a chipped penalty, which led to numerous pundits complaining idiotically about sportsmanship.

Arsenal won at St. James' Park 2-1 in March, in what you could call a class Arsenal-style match: Olivier Giroud scored twice in a comfortable first half and Arsenal coasted to a 2-0 lead at halftime. Then, Moussa Sissoko pulled a goal back in the 48th minute for Newcastle, and suddenly it was the most nerve-wracking match ever played.

Arsenal have won seven straight against Newcastle and are unbeaten in their last nine against the Toon dating back to November of 2010, when an Andy Carroll header gave Newcastle a 1-0 win at the Emirates. Arsenal then drew two straight visits to St. James' Park before winning these seven straight.

Olivier Giroud has scored eight goals against Newcastle in six matches, finding the back of the net in five of those six games.

The Referee

Who?
The referee is West Midlands-based Andre Marriner. After Marriner found himself in the middle of ridiculousness, sending off the wrong man in Arsenal's 6-0 loss at Chelsea two years ago, he was assigned to only two Arsenal matches last season, both home wins and both clean sheets. Marriner was the referee for Arsenal's 1-0 win over Southampton last December and their 2-0 win over Everton in early March. The club successfully navigated Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both starting the latter match, with the Ox being subbed off after 82 minutes.

Newcastle had a mixed record with Marriner last year. They defeated Liverpool 1-0 in November, but then lost 4-0 to Tottenham in the League Cup in December. Later, they played a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace in February with Marriner in the middle.

After the mistaken identity red card back in 2014, Marriner showed only two red cards in 33 matches last season, one to Bournemouth's Yann Kermorgant, and the other to Hull's David Meyler.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Sunderland; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Bournemouth v. Leicester City; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday: Chelsea v. Crystal Palace; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. West Ham United; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester City v. Watford; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. West Bromwich Albion; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Everton; White Hart Lane
  • Sunday (early): Southampton v. Norwich City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Sunday (late): Swansea City v. Manchester United; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
--
John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner and a full hybrid electric mid-size hatchback. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to debate fuel economy.

Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool: OH MY GOD, EVERYBODY PANIC!!!!!!!


Photo: Reuters

Everybody panic!!! Or, you know, act like an adult and don't. Either/or.

Look, I'm not going to insult anyone's intelligence and claim that yesterday saw a vintage performance from the men in red and white. Hell, that first half was as utterly dreadful as anything I've seen from this team since Denilson handed Wayne Rooney a written invitation to come on in and have a go at goal.

Also, I hate dropping points to these guys as much as anyone...especially given that their NYC supporters knocked us out on penalty kicks in the semifinals of this year's Supporter's Cup.

But, the drivel that it is being written and spoken about our team out there is more than a sane person can take. The more I read, the more I'm amazed that people who are paid to commentate on this sport seem to have little-to-no idea of what they're actually watching.

For example, the common theme among many of these columns is that there wasn't enough help for Francis Coquelin in the center of the park. Sure, there were several last-ditch saving tackles from the man himself, as well as Gabriel (who recovered from a shaky start to have a massive second half). But, the vast majority of Liverpool's chances came from simple giveaways just outside of our penalty area. Explain to me again how exactly a central midfielder is going to prevent that?

Naturally, Calum Chambers is taking pelters for his performance, as he was responsible for most of the aforementioned giveaways. I get it, he looked like he won a "Play center-half for Arsenal" fan contest out there. But, this is another instance where people just don't think - they forget that this game involves humans who have annoying human things to contend with. A good back four plays together a lot, because you need that understanding and positional awareness of where everyone's going to be. It also helps to know going in that you're playing that day. A completely new center-half pairing matched with fullbacks who bomb forward was always going to present a challenge. Perhaps Chambers could have handled it better, but I guarantee you that this performance does not define him as a player.

And, for all the tut-tutting about how Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal should have sat back, please then explain the tactical value in letting Nathaniel Clyne - a fantastic attacking fullback - and Joe Gomez (who arguably could have been Man of the Match) dominate that space?

Anyway, the giveaways happened, and Liverpool had their chances...but so did we. Coutinho smashed one against the bar, and Alexis Sanchez headed over when he should have hit the target. Meanwhile, there was also the small matter of Aaron Ramsey scoring a perfectly good goal off a feed from Santi Cazorla. Sadly, the lino bottled the decision...swings and roundabouts, I suppose.

I don't know if it was a function of being denied the goal or what, but our boys went to pieces for the rest of the half. The visitors' midfield did well to harry our defenders (Chambers especially) into mistakes, which they converted into chances more often than not. Thankfully, Petr Cech was there to make a mockery of the bellends who moaned about one iffy performance earlier in the year. First, he displayed world-class anticipation and reflexes to deny what should have been a simple tap-in for Christian Benteke, and then made what I feel was an even better save to fingertip a wicked, swerving drive from Coutinho onto the post and away to safety.

The first half thus ended 0-0, but it could have been anything from 1-0 us to 3-0 them. It was wacky and awful and exhilarating and bizarre.

I can't say I know what Brendan Rodgers was thinking with his second-half tactics, though. The Scousers sat much deeper from the restart, obviously intending to soak up pressure and hit us on the break. But, why would you do that when we were such a defensive shambles earlier on?

Whatever the reason, it let us back into the game and we frankly monstered them from then on. Sadly, we were lacking a final ball on most occasions, and the finishing (especially from Alexis in the 60th minute) let us down otherwise.

Cazorla, other than the pass for what should have been Ramsey's goal, was absolutely dreadful. His passing was horrendous and he kept running into cul-de-sacs, but there'll be much better from him to come. Mesut Ozil worked his socks off and had the right ideas, but the execution just didn't come off for him. Alexis is still clearly off the boil from his Copa America exertions. Rambo was a half-tick on the metronome off from everyone else. Olivier Giroud got into good positions but just didn't get any service.

Also, the subs were a little weird. We all know by now that Theo Walcott's value comes from running behind defenses, but he only came on once Liverpool were playing 10 center-halves. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain didn't have enough time to settle in - I'll never understand subs after the 75th minute for anything other than time-wasting purposes. I also thought Ramsey and Cazorla should have come off instead of the excellent Coquelin and Giroud, who still had an aerial threat to offer.

Still, the last 10 minutes saw several chances for us to win. A Ramsey shot skittered off a defender and wrong-footed Simon Mignolet, but the Belgian recovered fantastically well to parry it away. Martin Skrtel was then fortunate not to put through into his own goal, and Mignolet was again the Scouser savior in injury time off an effort from Oxlade-Chamberlain.

This one really could have been 5-5 on another day.

All of this said, I refuse to lose my mind three goddamn games into the season. I'm not going to lose my mind because we're not going to sign the 0.5 goals/game striker from Madrid to replace our 0.42 goals/game one. I'm not going to lose my mind when many of the players are actually playing pretty well, and things just aren't working out at the moment.

We're going to be fine. Fuck's sake.


The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Cech 9, Monreal 7, Chambers 4, Gabriel 7, Bellerin 7, Coquelin 9 (Oxlade-Chamberlain N/A), Cazorla 5, Sanchez 6, Ozil 6, Ramsey 6, Giroud 7 (Walcott 6)

Man of the Match: In a wild, open game like this one, there's no shortage of candidates. Gomez was brilliant for the visitors, both keepers played blinders, and Benteke was a threat all day. But, I have to stump for Francis Coquelin, as we'd have been blown away in the first half without him.

--
Sean Swift is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is honestly tired of the doomers' bullshit. You can follow him on the Twitter machine at @thefallen29.