Preview by Numbers: Newcastle United v. Arsenal

St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
Saturday, March 21
11:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Jones
    • Assistants: Richard West and Mark Scholes
    • 4th Official: Andy Woolmer
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 4 - 1 Newcastle
  • This Match, Last Year: Newcastle 0 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 71 Arsenal wins, 66 Newcastle wins, 38 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-W-W-W-W
  • Newcastle's League Form: D-D-L-W-L-L
Grrrrr, we won 2-0.
I don't understand the logic of being mad now about our exit from the Champions League; you had plenty of time to be upset about it after the first leg debacle and ooooh, plenty of people were. Personally, I believe that you don't get to be mad all over again after a 2-0 win. Maybe that's just me, but the way I see it, Arsenal created enough chances to win both games comfortably, but were punished for defensive mistakes in the first leg. End of.

That happened already. We were all pretty upset about it. If you want to continue being upset about it, might I suggest getting in a time machine and going back to the day after the first leg.

That's enough of a recap from me; this is a match preview, after all. Nine league matches remain on Arsenal's fixture list. The Gunners are in third in the league, as opposed to our usual fifth around this time. They're one point out of second, but just one point clear of fourth, three points clear of fifth, and seven points clear of sixth.

For those who think a league title is not out of the question, Chelsea would have to drop at least 10 points with Arsenal winning all nine remaining games. That means Arsenal would end the season on a 14-match winning streak in the league, something which has never been done within a single season in the Premier League era (Arsenal did win 14 straight across the end of 2001/02 season and the beginning of the 2002/03 season.)

I've stressed this many, many times before, but you can only win games one at a time. So, let's get three points on Tyneside and go into this Interlull no lower than third. We'll worry about a big fixture at home against in-form Liverpool on the other side.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring,) Wilshere (ankle,) Debuchy (shoulder,) Arteta (calf,) Diaby (calf)
Doubts: Rosicky (illness,) Gabriel (hamstring)

Tomas Rosicky displays his metal horns.
The good news is Arsenal have not lost anyone to injury in the past week. The bad news is some people (*coughalexiscough*) are starting to look a little tired. We go into an international break from here, which will mean rest for some but not for others (*coughalexiscough*) At least Chile play a friendly at the Emirates against Brazil, even if it follows a match on Thursday the 26th against Iran in Austria.

Anyway, Tomas Rosicky appears ready to return to the squad after a bout with illness kept him out for over a week. Arsene Wenger also mentioned that Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta are both about three weeks away. It should be a similar time frame, if not less, for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Still no word on a return for Jack Wilshere or... well, I guess I have to keep mentioning Abou Diaby.

Arsenal are winning football games, so I see no reason to make any drastic changes to the XI, aside from fatigue-based rotation. Even still, I'd put money on Alexis starting.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck, Giroud.

Newcastle Squad News

Out: Abeid (thigh,) Dummett (knee,) Tiote (knee,) S. Taylor (Achilles,) de Jong (collapsed lung)
Doubts: Haidara (knee,) Aarons (hamstring,) Elliot (hip)
Suspended: Coloccini (first of three, serious foul play) Cisse (second of seven, spitting)

Martin Atkinson, fan of red cards, adds insult to Newcastle's
already long injury list.
Captain Fabricio Coloccini attempted to appeal the three-match ban levied against him by the FA following his red card against Everton, but that appeal was denied. That means Newcastle has only one fit center back available to start on Saturday, in the form of Mike Williamson. That's because both Steven Taylor (Achilles) and Paul Dummett (knee) are out injured themselves; Dummett is out until May while Taylor might be out until October. Left back Massadio Haidara is a doubt with a knee problem.

Backup goalkeeper Rob Elliot remains a doubt with a hip injury, while Newcastle are expected to be without midfielders Siem de Jong (out indefinitely with a collapsed lung,) Rolando Aarons (doubtful with a hamstring problem,) Mehdi Abeid (out three weeks with a thigh problem,) and most importantly, Cheick Tiote, whose season is also over with a knee injury.

Papiss Cisse will be serving the second match of his seven match spitting ban; remember, that was a six match ban like Phil Jones's, but Cisse gets the extra match because it is his second ban of the season.

When these two sides met at the Emirates, Arsenal got the benefit of not facing Tim Krul or Moussa Sissoko, though they will not be lucky in those respects this time. Asking for that in addition to the defender issues Newcastle has right now would be a bit greedy...

Predicted XI: Krul, Janmaat, Williamson, Anita, R. Taylor, Sissoko, Colback, Ameobi, Cabella, Gouffran, Perez.

Current Form

I Googled "form train" and all I got was
rail-related paperwork.
Arsenal's form train keeps rolling, so hop on board while there's still time! Arsenal have won five straight in the league, five straight across all competitions, eight of their last nine overall, and 13 of 15 total matches dating back to the New Year's Day loss at Southampton.

Don't stop the form train! Choo choooooookay, I'll never do that again. I'm sorry.

Newcastle, on the other hand, have struggled since the departure of Alan Pardew to Crystal Palace on December 29. In 11 matches under caretaker manager John Carver, Newcastle have won twice, drawn three, and lost six. The Toon crashed out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle against Leicester City. Their wins have come against 15th place Hull City and 16th place Aston Villa. They are still, however, ten points clear of relegation in 11th place, so they do not appear to be in any major danger of the drop right now.

Match Facts

This has something to do with Cazorla.
Kind of.
I don't know...
Arsenal won the reverse fixture 4-1 at the Emirates in mid-December. As mentioned above, Newcastle were without Krul or Elliot in goal and, more critically, were without Sissoko in the holding role. Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla scored twice each on third-string keeper Jak Alnwick, though Cazorla was widely criticized for chipping a penalty down the middle to put the home side up 4-1.

To be fair, I personally don't find any Arsenal lead to be safe, so I didn't really consider it to be showboating at all. Some commentators, especially those in the tabloids, just like to fill column inches with nonsensical drivel and stories that don't make much sense, like this one time I fell through a window at a party. To be honest, it wasn't that dangerous of a situation, you see, I was already outside on the fire escape hanging out with people. I lost my balance while attempting to come back inside through the window so, in effect, I fell through a window back into the apartment. So, you can basically twist any mundane situation and make it sound like a dramatic story, like Cazorla's penalty, or ignoring legitimate statistics to discuss whether Mesut Ozil is "worth" the price tag.

But, I digress.

Arsenal have won six straight against Newcastle and are unbeaten in their last eight 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's Park, the first of which in a rather ridiculous fashion I don't believe I really need to cover again, before winning these six straight.

The Referee

Jones sent off Filipe Morais on Monday for this high boot.
Joey Barton saw nothing wrong with it.
The referee is Chester-based Mike Jones. Arsenal have had Jones as referee twice this season, for two victories: 3-0 at Aston Villa in September and 2-1 against Leicester in February. Jones, of course, had a rough day at the office in the latter and booked Olivier Giroud late on when he found himself in the way of a Mark Schwarzer punt. For Newcastle, Jones took charge of a 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace in August and a 3-1 loss at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

Earlier this week, Jones was in the middle of the FA Cup replay between Reading and Bradford City, which Reading won 3-0. Jones was criticized for losing control of the match early, as Bradford found themselves down two within ten minutes. Eventually, he had to send off Filipe Morais for a ridiculous high challenge just after the hour mark. FYI, Joey Barton thought it was harsh.

Since New Year's Day, Mike Jones has only taken charge of two Premier League fixtures, which is not really a sign of confidence at a time when Chris Foy and Phil Dowd are both out injured. Then again, I don't think the FA would give Dowd this fixture again any time soon.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Manchester City v. West Bromwich Albion; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Swansea City; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Burnley; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Crystal Palace; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Leicester City; White Hart Lane, Leicester
  • Saturday (late): West Ham United v. Sunderland; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Sunday (early): Liverpool v. Manchester United; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Sunday (late): Hull City v. Chelsea; KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Sunday (late): Queens Park Rangers v. Everton; Loftus Road, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a man-made lake in central Saskatchewan. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for the best fishing this side of Carrot River!

Preview by Numbers: Monaco v. Arsenal, Champions League Round of 16, Second Leg

Stade Louis II, Monaco
Tuesday, March 17
3:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 GMT

  • Match Officials from Norway

    • Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen
    • Assistants: Kim Thomas Haglund and Frank Andas
    • 4th Official: Sven Erik Midthjell
    • Additional Assistants: Ken Henry Johnsen and Svein-Erik Edvartsen 

  • All-Time in All Competitions: 1 Monaco win
  • Arsenal's European Form: W-W-D-W-W-L
  • Monaco's European Form: D-D-L-W-W-W

  • Just to be clear here, I'm not promising you a miracle. Simple Minds, circa 1982, is promising you a miracle. If it doesn't actually come to pass, I suggest inventing a time machine, going back 33 years to Scotland, and taking it up with them.

    Arsenal Squad News

    Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring,) Rosicky (illness,) Wilshere (ankle,) Debuchy (shoulder,) Arteta (calf,) Diaby (calf)
    Doubts: Gabriel (hamstring)

    There looks to be very little to say here.

    Gabriel is (so soon!) back in training, but is almost certainly not ready to feature; photographic evidence, however, indicates that he was on the flight to France. Tomas Rosicky has missed the last two matches through illness and did not make the trip. Jack Wilshere would be due back next, though there are fears he's had a setback. It's still three weeks for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, mid-April for Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta, and the third to next harvest moon for Abou Diaby. In good news, however, Debuchy and Arteta are both back in light training.

    After some rotation at the weekend, I would expect the two Spaniards, Hector Bellerin and Santi Cazorla, to come back into the XI. As for the right wing, it's between Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck, and personally, I'd go with the latter.

    Should Arsenal somehow advance, it's worth noting that Mathieu Flamini, Nacho Monreal, and Mesut Ozil are all one booking away from accumulation bans.

    Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck, Giroud.

    Monaco Squad News

    Out: Bakayoko (thigh,) Raggi (knee,) Traore (broken leg)

    Monaco train in picturesque... well, Monaco.
    Monaco are expected to have a stronger side available than they had at the Emirates, which is some cause of concern for Arsenal. Captain Jeremy Toulalan returns from suspension, though he missed Friday's match against Bastia. In addition, Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and Geoffrey Kondogbia both missed that match as well, a 3-0 win against a side that finished with nine men; all three trained yesterday and should be good to go.

    That means Monaco has the same long term injuries; Tiemoue Bakayoko is out with a thigh problem, Andrea Raggi has a knee injury, and Lacina Traore is out with a fractured tibia.

    Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, Moutinho and Layvin Kurzawa all face suspension with their next yellow card.

    Predicted XI: Subasic, Toure, Wallace, Abdennour, Kurzawa, Kondogbia, Toulalan, Dirar, Ferreira-Carrasco, Moutinho, Berbatov.

    Current Form

    Monaco were bounced from the Coupe de France by
    Sideshow Bob's opening goal.
    Arsenal have won four straight on the bounce since losing the first leg, knocking Manchester United out of the FA Cup while extending their Premier League winning streak to five for the first time since the end of last season. So, that's something, right?

    As for Monaco, their domestic blip has continued in spite of their first leg success. The weekend following their win in London, Monaco drew with Paris St. Germain, 0-0. If PSG couldn't score at Monaco, then who can? A week later, the sides met again in the Coupe de France quarterfinals; the Paris side ran out 2-0 winners. Monaco followed that up with league wins over Evian and Bastia. Monaco are currently fourth in Ligue 1, eight points behind first place Lyon. Of course, in France, fourth is not good enough for Champions League football. Now eliminated from both domestic cups and eight points out of first, the Champions League might be Monaco's last shot at silverware this year.

    It is worth noting that Monaco have conceded one goal at home in their last 12 competitive matches combined. So, yeah, three goals, that should be... should, uh...... ((trails off mumbling))

    Match Facts

    Bayern Munich failed to convert two penalties across both
    legs last year. Fabianski saved at the Allianz, but the tie
    was long decided by this point.
    For the fourth consecutive season, we're sitting here talking about Arsenal overcoming a large deficit in the Round of 16's second leg. In 2012, they lost 4-0 at Milan before storming back to win 3-0 at the Emirates. In 2013, they lost 3-1 at home to Bayern before winning 2-0 in Germany and bowing out on away goals. Last year, on ten men, they fell 2-0 at home to Bayern and could only scrape a draw at the Allianz, bowing out 3-1 on aggregate. Here we are again, two goals down in the aggregate with three away goals allowed. Like clockwork. So, as in years past, I'm going to spend this section writing about Arsenal's (poor) history at overturning deficits.

    Since 2003/04, when the Champions League switched to the 16-team knockout phase set-up, Arsenal have lost the first match of a two-legged tie eight times, including, as mentioned above, their last four first legs. Among the previous seven occurrences (i.e. prior to this season,) Arsenal came from behind to win the tie only once, against Porto in 2010, thanks to a 5-0 second leg win at the Emirates in which Nicklas Bendtner had a hat trick.

    Interestingly, Arsenal have gone on to win the second leg match but not the tie as a whole on three occasions, including 2012 and 2013 against AC Milan and Bayern Munich, respectively, and one other time against Bayern Munich in 2005. In 2007, they drew the second leg against PSV, and in 2009 against Manchester United, well, that didn't go quite as well.

    Arsenal have never lost in France, however; they've won seven and drawn three on ten trips. But, as you know, it's more than just a win that they need to advance.

    The Referee

    The Norwegian Michael Oliver. I hope.
    The match officials are from Norway; the referee is Svein Oddvar Moen. Moen took charge of Arsenal's second leg of this round last year as well, as the Gunners drew 1-1 in Munich. Previously, Moen was the referee for Arsenal and Bayern's first leg encounter at the Emirates in 2013, which Bayern won 3-1. That is the only time Arsenal have lost with the Norwegian referee; they previously won matches over Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1 and Olympiacos 3-1 with Moen in the middle.

    This will be the first time Moen has taken charge of a Monaco match; in the Champions League, French sides in general have a record of no wins, two losses, and one draw with Moen as referee.

    Around Europe
    • Paris St. Germain defeated Chelsea, 3-3 on away goals.
    • Real Madrid defeated Schalke, 5-4 on aggregate.
    • Bayern Munich defeated Shakhtar Donetsk, 7-0 on aggregate.
    • Porto defeated Basel, 5-1 on aggregate.
    • Tuesday: Atletico Madrid v. Bayer Leverkusen; Vicente Calderon Stadium, Madrid
      • Bayer Levekusen leads 1-0
    • Wednesday: Barcelona v. Manchester City; Camp Nou, Barcelona
      • Barcelona leads 2-1
    • Wednesday: Borussia Dortmund v. Juventus; Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
      • Juventus leads 2-1
    John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and captain of industry. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for interesting stuff and things.

    Arsenal 3-0 West Ham United: Emphatic Victory


    Fearless prediction - if Arsenal play like this next week down in Monaco, the hat for the Champions League quarterfinal draw will have an English team in it after all.

    Of course, the French outfit are a far more daunting proposition than an injury-ravaged West Ham side, but for me this was more about process than results. Barring an oddly-subdued opening 15 minutes of the second half, Arsenal ripped West Ham apart with pace and purpose. The visitors couldn't live with the Gunners' relentless pressing, typified by the shift that Olivier Giroud put in up top.

    Another factor in play is how injury-ravaged their mob are - Diafra Sakho was their only recognized center-forward, Cheikhou Kouyaté was pressed into emergency duty at center-half, and Carl Jenkinson was absent due to the Premier League's loan rules. That left them with a patchwork back four that clearly had no understanding together, often causing them to remain static in the face of dizzying passing combinations from our boys.

    Had Theo Walcott been a tad bit less rusty coming off his injury layoff, it could have been 1-0 as early as the 5th minute. A raking through-ball from Alexis Sanchez put him in clean through, but he hesitated long enough to allow James Collins to close him down. There was arguably a penalty shout there too, but I'm less sympathetic to Theo when he had that much time to shoot in the first place.

    There was to be no early breakthrough, then, but it always looked like a goal was coming eventually. West Ham, for their part, were mostly content to soak up pressure and play off the counter, which many other sides have done to great effect against us. The difference today is that Arsenal were much more direct, and far more disciplined than usual when the visitors did counter.

    The only exception might have been Calum Chambers. He had an up-and-down first half, in that he created chances for Alexis and Ramsey with excellent crosses, but also got flambeed by Matt Jarvis down his wing on three separate occasions. Had the Hammers committed any more support players forward, we may have found ourselves chasing the game.

    Still, the good news is that the chances kept coming as the half went on. The finishing was a bit suspect a times - Adrian made a few decent saves, though there was nothing there that a top-level keeper shouldn't have saved easily. At times like this though, it's important to keep process in mind, as opposed to immediate results. The longer a team goes on playing the way they were, the more chance that eventually there will be a breakthrough.

    Sure enough, that finally happened just before the stroke of halftime. At first it looked like it might have gone to Walcott, but an untimely slip prevented him from cashing in a fat rebound left from a shot by Mesut Ozil. Just minutes later though, the Gunners eviscerated the statues in light blue with a lightning-quick passing exchange. Aaron Ramsey was running towards the corner flag when Giroud simply took it off his foot at a dead run. That effectively dummied the defender, leaving Ollie room to lash a thunderbolt off the far post and in.

    The halftime interval couldn't have come at a worse time for us, though. As purposeful and urgent as our attacking play was in the first period, it was exactly that turgid and ponderous after the restart. There was also a scary moment when Sakho clattered into David Ospina - I thought that should have been a yellow - but the Colombian stopper ended up being OK.

    While Arsenal went well off the boil in those next 15-20 minutes, the good news is that the visitors couldn't conjure much other than wasted possession. I honestly can't remember one serious save that Ospina had to make over the entire 90 minutes. Part of that can be attributed to the excellence of Laurent Koscielny and Francis Coquelin, though. The latter broke up more than his share of attacking threats in the center of the park, and when he did not, the former was there to imperiously sweep up.

    Our boys did start to wake up after Arsene Wenger started to make his substitutions, though. Danny Welbeck came on for a somewhat-anonymous Alexis Sanchez, soon followed by a tiring Walcott withdrawn for Santi Cazorla. The fresh legs gave us an energy boost at a crucial point of the match, and the chances started coming once again.

    The one that everyone will talk about, of course, was Ozil's utterly bizarre insistence of crossing to the far post when put in clean through on Adrian's goal. Sure, he should have taken the shot, but the angle was such that a goal was not exactly guaranteed.

    Beyond that, the Ozil haters will point to that as further existence that he is now The Worst Player On Earth Guv'nor Innit Innit Innit. But, a deeper look would show that many of our best moves, especially in the first half, had Ozil right in the thick of it. His passing and awareness were excellent all day, and a lot of what he does is keep an offense ticking over long enough for chances to be created...even if his telling pass was one or two before the final ball. I don't know if it's because we live in a FIFA/Football Manager world, where people believe that goals and assists are the only hallmark of a great player. People forget that this is a team game, and there's usually three or four key moments that lead up to goal or a chance, well before the actual cross or pass or shot.

    Anyway, the visitors visibly started to flag in the game's waning minutes, and Arsenal took full advantage to add some gloss to the final scoreline. Another dizzying set of passes resulted in a brilliant one-two between Ramsey and Giroud, allowing the Welshman all the space he needed to hammer one past Adrian.

    The party pieces came out soon after, with yet another passing masterclass capped off by Cazorla's pinpoint square ball across the six-yard line. The substitute Mathieu Flamini was unmarked on the back post, and was left with an easy tap-in.

    You know, it's funny how this team has the ability to bring you from despair to euphoria and back again at the speed of damn light. I've gone from resignation to an unbelievable belief that these guys can go down to Monaco and demolish them just the same as they did this lot today. Maybe they can and maybe they can't, but you can't ask to be in better form than we're in right now.

    Come on, you rip-roaring reds. We got this!

    The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

    Ospina 7, Monreal 7, Koscielny 9, Mertesacker 7, Chambers 7, Coquelin 8, Ramsey 8, Sanchez 7 (Welbeck 8), Ozil 7 (Flamini N/A), Walcott 7 (Cazorla 7), Giroud9

    Man of the Match: There were a few who might have been able to stake a claim to this on the day, but I have to go with Olivier Giroud. He worked his tail off for the cause, and he finished with the goal and assist that he so richly deserved. Brilliant!


    Sean Swift is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner, and is about to go celebrate this with some excellent German beer - living around the corner from a beerhall has its' advantage. I am on the Twitter machine at @thefallen29, but my usual caveat, I don't often check it. 

    Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. West Ham United

    Emirates Stadium, London
    Saturday, March 14
    11:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 GMT
    • Match Officials
      • Referee: Chris Foy
      • Assistants: Andy Garratt and David Bryan
      • 4th Official: Anthony Taylor
    • Reverse Fixture: West Ham 1 - 2 Arsenal
    • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 3 - 1 West Ham
    • All-Time in All Competitions: 59 Arsenal wins, 33 West Ham wins, 38 draws
    • Arsenal's League Form: W-L-W-W-W-W
    • West Ham's League Form: L-D-D-D-L-L
    Glory, Glory Danny Welbeck
    Hold on, hold on.

    I'm still basking in the afterglow of Monday night's win at Old Trafford.

    ...still basking...

    ...almost done...

    ...okay, I think that's good. Time to get back to business...

    ...oh, nope! Still basking!

    But, I digress. Our attention must turn back to the league again, where Arsenal sit in sole possession of third place with ten matches to play. They are, however, only one point clear of Manchester United (with another visit to Old Trafford slated for mid-May,) three points clear of Liverpool (who visit the Emirates in three weeks,) four points clear of Spurs, and five points clear of Southampton.

    Thanks to a quirk in the fixtures list, only four of Arsenal's remaining ten league games are on the road and three of those four are against clubs in the bottom half of the league table. Still, with so many points still on the table, it's paramount for Arsenal to continue winning games.

    Let's stay in the top three, three points at a time.

    Arsenal Squad News

    Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring,) Gabriel (hamstring,) Wilshere (ankle,) Debuchy (shoulder,) Arteta (calf,) Diaby (calf)
    Doubts: Rosicky (illness)

    This is an artist's depiction of the first sign of Diaby's return.
    The only negative fallout from Monday's win is the loss of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who, according to your crazy uncle, the Daily Mail, could be out for four weeks with a hamstring injury. The club later confirmed that length well after I wrote this paragraph, but I didn't want to remove the crazy uncle joke, so now I'm writing this explanatory sentence. Anyway, this means that Arsene Wenger will have to find new and more interesting ways to not play Theo Walcott on the right wing.

    In the center of midfield, Jack Wilshere remains out after his "little surgery," though Mathieu Flamini is available again. In surprisingly good news, Gabriel Paulista is back in training on Sunday, which is much faster than I expected. It's still a month for Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta, while Abou Diaby will remain out until the Sun enters its red giant phase.

    Tomas Rosicky missed the match at Old Trafford through illness, which puts him in the "doubts" category for now.

    There are some selection questions at the back. Has Wojciech Szczesny won his job back between the sticks? How about Nacho Monreal vs. Kieran Gibbs at left back? For my predicted XI, I've merely maintained the status quo from the last league match.

    Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez, Welbeck, Giroud.

    West Ham Squad News

    Out: Jenkinson (loan terms,) Carroll (knee,) Cole (hamstring)
    Doubts: Valencia (laceration,) Reid (hamstring)

    Enner Valencia is in line for strangest injury of the season; the Ecuadorian international cut his big toe on a broken teacup in his home and required emergency surgery to repair the freak accident. West Ham do not need to be further depleted on their front lines, of course, as Andy Carroll's season is over after a knee injury.

    Carlton Cole is almost certainly out with a hamstring injury, while center back Winston Reid is a major doubt with a hamstring injury of his own; Reid was removed on eight minutes from West Ham's last match against Chelsea last midweek. Elsewhere on the back line, Carl Jenkinson is ineligible to play against his parent club due to the terms of his loan deal.

    Without Valencia, Cole, or Carroll, West Ham would only have Diafra Sakho available as a striker, meaning they could have to play a 4-5-1 instead of a 4-4-2. In some good news, West Ham will have Morgan Amalfitano back from suspension.

    Predicted XI: Adrian, Demel, Tomkins, Collins, Cresswell, Song, Noble, Kouyate, Amalfitano, Downing, Sakho.

    Current Form

    Arsenal's current form
    For as "up and down" as we've talked about Arsenal's form being not only all season but in the last few weeks as well, it's refreshing to say that Arsenal's form right now is "we won at Old Trafford, ahhhhhhhhhhh!" In addition, Arsenal enter this match having won four straight in the league for the first time all season. Since the loss at Southampton on New Year's Day, Arsenal have won 11 and lost two.

    As for West Ham, well, after they beat Swansea on December 7, they were third in the table; Manchester United pipped them for third the next day, but still. Since that win, West Ham have a record, across all competitions, of three wins, eight draws, and six losses. In league play, they have won one of their last 11. They are now sitting in 10th, 15 points behind third place Arsenal. Currently winless in seven across all competitions, West Ham have scored just four goals in those seven matches. In addition, West Ham have not won on the road this season against a club higher than them in the table.

    Match Facts

    Everybody gets cake!
    Arsenal have now won nine straight against West Ham across all competitions, after they won 2-1 in late December at Upton Park in the reverse fixture. Ex-Arsenal midfielder Alex Song seemed to have an early opening goal, but it was ruled offside. Arsenal struck twice before halftime to take a 2-0 lead through a Santi Cazorla penalty and a Danny Welbeck goal, but Cheikhou Kouyate's 51st minute goal set up a grandstand finish.

    When Arsenal won this fixture last year, in the days following their FA Cup Semi-Final win over Wigan, it marked the fourth consecutive time Arsenal conceded the opener, then went on to beat the Hammers. Matt Jarvis scored the opener for the visitors in the 40th minute, but Lukas Podolski netted a critical equalizer before halftime. Olivier Giroud gave Arsenal a 2-1 lead in the 55th and Podolski's second of the night secured all three points in the 78th.

    The Gunners are also unbeaten in 14 against the Hammers. West Ham's last win against Arsenal marked the first time a visiting team won at the Emirates Stadium; Bobby Zamora scored just before halftime and West Ham held on to win 1-0 in April of 2007.

    The Referee

    Just as he's about to send off Vincent Kompany, Chris Foy
    remembers he forgot to return that Redbox DVD.
    The referee is Merseyside-based Chris Foy. This is Foy's first match since February 21, as he is just returning from injury. This will be the second time Arsenal have seen Foy this season; he previously took charge of the Gunners' 1-0 win at West Brom at the end of November.

    This will be Foy's fourth West Ham match of the season. He previously worked West Ham's 1-0 opening day loss to Tottenham (in which he showed two red cards,) a 2-2 draw at Stoke in November, and a 3-1 win over Swansea in December (in which he sent off Lukasz Fabianski.)

    Foy has shown eight red cards this year in just 19 matches. The only other referees who have shown that many are Anthony Taylor (who has shown eight in 28 matches) and Craig Pawson (who has shown nine in 25.)

    Around the League
    • Saturday (early): Crystal Palace v. Queens Park Rangers; Selhurst Park, London
    • Saturday: Leicester City v. Hull City; King Power Stadium, Leicester
    • Saturday: Sunderland v. Aston Villa; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
    • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Stoke City; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
    • Saturday (late): Burnley v. Manchester City; Turf Moor, Burnley
    • Sunday (early): Chelsea v. Southampton; Stamford Bridge, London
    • Sunday (late): Everton v. Newcastle United; Goodison Park, Liverpool
    • Sunday (late): Manchester United v. Tottenham Hotspur; Old Trafford, Manchester
    • Monday (night): Swansea City v. Liverpool; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
    John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and hopes you don't underestimate the impact Darmo, Devourer of Souls had on Monday's win at Old Trafford. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat. Hail Darmo, again.

    Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal: Have Some of That, You Absolute Utter Bastards

    Picture: Arsenal Facebook

    "Can't wait for our inevitable loss to the worst Manchester United team of the last 25 years. Can't wait for the inevitable lack of character, spine and fight that our flat-track bully cosseted little princes will display. Can't wait for the fact that Szczesny will probably get blamed for it, along with AIDS, global warming and Nickelback."
     - Me, your humble author, on a closed Facebook discussion group hours before gametime

    Wow. Just...WOW.

    I don't think too many people saw this coming. But, as I illustrate above with something I posted on Facebook earlier today, we supporters just don't know shit when the quids are down. Once again, Arsene Wenger has masterminded a brilliant away win in the city of Manchester, only this one leaves us within touching distance of defending the FA Cup. More importantly, this one just may have driven a stake through the heart of Arsenal's Old Trafford mental block. 

    It was an interesting lineup that we fielded, too. Danny Welbeck was preferred to Olivier Giroud, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got something of a surprise start on the right. United had essentially a full-strength team, such as it is for their lot this season. Still, they were on top in the early going, and should have scored when Ashley Young was well positioned at the top of the box. Luckily, Beaker from the Muppets (aka Louis van Gaal) opted to play Marouane Fellaini in the hole, and he was unable to play the simple square ball needed to give Young a shooting opportunity.

    Our boys grew into the game as it went on though, and it was obvious that they were going about it in much the same way as we did against City - keep it tight, don't over-commit, and wait for an error-prone defensive line to make mistakes. 

    That mistake duly arrived in the 25th minute. Nacho Monreal will take the plaudits for a fine finish, but it was a tremendous team effort. Francis Coquelin won an aerial challenge with a flick off the side of his boot. Alexis Sanchez then held off 3 or 4 defenders in the center of the park, allowing teammates to get forward. Monreal and Mesut Ozil combined beautifully down the left, springing the German into acres of space in the center. He played it out to Ox on the right, who clowned Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and one of the center-halves. Chris Smalling came over to help, leaving Monreal all alone on the back post. David De Gea was left with no chance as Nacho belted it past him.

    Still, I don't believe my head was the only one to drop when they equalized right after. Arsenal lost their defensive shape for the one time in the match, starting with Monreal playing far too loosely on Angel di Maria, allowing the cross to come in. Laurent Koscielny lost his bearings, allowing Wayne Rooney to drift off of him and power an unstoppable point-blank header past Wojciech Szczesny.

    Had this been business as usual, the Gunners would have wilted as an energized United team ran riot on them. Instead, the Arsenal immediately closed up shop, regained their composure, and stuck to the plan of fighting back when the situation allowed for it to be done as safely as possible. Despite that, Szczesny had to help his own cause with a save on di Maria that was much more difficult than it looked - his reflexes and rebound control were on point there. Sadly, his kicking wasn't, as a poor clearance almost gifted them a goal towards the end of the half.

    That took us to the interval, where Beaker decided to change things around by bringing on Michael Carrick and Phil Jones in place of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw. It just meant that they were a disjointed mess with a slightly different collection of players, though. That's not to take away from an Arsenal performance of MASSIVE desire and spirit, but United were dreadful. I mean, what's their plan? What are they set up to do? Answers on a postcard...

    It was right around here that they fully ran out of ideas. They turned into an almost continental version of Stoke City - long balls, diving all over the place, more long balls, and more diving. Really? REALLY, Manchester United? The big bad United at Old Trafford and you're resorting to lumping hoofballs to Fellani and falling over anytime someone breathes on you?

    How the mighty have fallen.

    Luckily, Michael Oliver - in arguably the single best refereeing performance of the last 4-5 years, wasn't having any of it. He was not afraid to dish out yellow cards when it was warranted, including for some of their more risible dives (di Maria the worst offender by far). Good on him.

    Speaking of di Maria, what an effect he would have on the rest of the game. First, he spurned a decent chance up one end, and we only go up the other and score! A poor chest-down of a long goal kick by Jones started the danger. Valencia hit a ludicrously-poor backpass, De Gea couldn't get there, and Welbeck finished into the empty net.

    You have to understand - I date back to 1992 as a Gooner. For me, Manchester United is the team I hate the most - the ever-present nemesis that prevented us from having the trophy haul that our best teams of the late 90s-early 2000s probably deserved. Watching them implode at home against us is pure, distilled, 10000-proof schadenfreude for me.  HAVE SOME OF THAT.

    There was still time for them to get back into it, which is why I loved Arsene's substitution of Calum Chambers on for Bellerin. The young Spaniard was booked early and committed a foul that on another day might have been a second yellow, so why risk it?

    But, then again, why worry when United were desperate to empty an AK-47 directly into their own feet? They already would have been down 3-1 off a spectacular volley from Cazorla were it not for a worldie save by De Gea. Seconds later, Oliver booked di Maria for his 10,871th ridiculous dive of the half. The dumb bastard (who remember, many of us in our infinite wisdom were furious at Arsene for not signing) grabbed the referee's shirt, which is at least a yellow all day. Oliver sent him packing - imagine, a red card for a United player at their gaff - and that was about it for their chances on the day.

    The hilarious thing was, a few minutes later, Adnan Januzaj was also booked for diving, in an attempt to win a penalty.

    Want to talk about mental blocks? Maybe a new one is starting, going the other way this time. I hope're late, Karma.

    I keep coming back to it, but it keeps being the most astonishing thing about this game. THAT is what they were reduced to. It's like pulling back the curtain and seeing that the Wizard was just that small dude sitting in the chair after all. Good, fuck 'em to hell, anyway. 

    The one sop to the old days was that they got an inexplicable five minutes of Fergie Time at the end, but all they managed to accomplish was being bailed out by De Gea once again. Whatever else, remember that his saves were the only thing between them and a potential hiding. At home. To the team they had the mental advantage over going in.

    So, ladies, it's time to get those yellow ribbons out once again. We got the winner of Bradford City vs. Reading, and for me the most important thing left for this season is to ensure that Arsene doesn't allow them to take it lightly. This trophy is ours to win if we play up to our capabilities. Come on, boys...let's do this.

    The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

    Szczesny 7, Monreal 8, Koscielny 7, Mertesacker 8, Bellerin 6 (Chambers 7), Coquelin 8, Cazorla 8, Sanchez 8, Ozil 8, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Ramsey 7), Welbeck8 (Giroud 7)

    Man of the Match: We had no shortage of heroes, but I have to give it to Danny Welbeck for scoring against the team and the manager that told him that he wasn't good enough.

    Sean Swift is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner, and is absolutely walking on air right now. I am on the Twitter machine at @thefallen29, but my usual caveat, I don't often check it.

    Preview by Numbers: Manchester United v. Arsenal, FA Cup Sixth Round

    Old Trafford, Manchester
    Monday, March 9
    3:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 GMT
    • Match Officials
      • Referee: Michael Oliver
      • Assistants: Jake Collin and Gary Beswick
      • 4th Official: Craig Pawson
    • All-Time in All Competitions: 79 Arsenal wins, 93 United wins, 48 draws
    • All-Time in the FA Cup: 5 Arsenal wins, 7 Manchester United wins, 2 draws
    • Arsenal's Path Here
      • Third Round: Beat Hull City, 2-0
      • Fourth Round: Beat Brighton & Hove Albion, 3-2
      • Fifth Round: Beat Middlesbrough, 2-0
    • Manchester United's Path Here
      • Third Round: Beat Yeovil Town, 2-0
      • Fourth Round: Drew Cambridge United, 0-0; won replay 3-0
      • Fifth Round: Beat Preston North End, 3-1
    • Arsenal's League Form: W-L-W-W-W-W
    • Manchester United's League Form: W-D-W-L-W-W
    He's not a guitar, man...
    It's the FA Cup sixth round, the quarterfinals, the winner-goes-to-Wembley stage. So, of course, Arsenal are awarded a Monday night trip to Old Trafford.

    When the drawing was made during the end of the fifth round, we all sort of had that oh, of course we got United away feeling. And now, here it is.

    So, honestly, what is there to say? Arsenal are the defending FA Cup champions and in order to continue that cup defense, they will have to win in a stadium where they have not won since 2006. Or, they could hold out for a draw and force a replay.

    Then again, this isn't the same United team (read: Fergie) that has held its voodoo over Arsenal for years and years. It's time to break that hex once and for all, grab your yellow ribbons, and go to Wem-ber-lee.

    Arsenal Squad News

    Out: Gabriel (hamstring,) Wilshere (ankle,) Flamini (groin,) Debuchy (shoulder,) Arteta (calf,) Diaby (calf)
    Doubts: Monreal (back,) Szczesny (illness)

    At least we have French Zorro.
    Having done his hamstring in the 2-1 win over QPR on Wednesday, Gabriel Paulista is now officially an Arsenal player. I hope the 37 minutes of rest Laurent Koscielny got before being called into action was enough of a vacation, as he and Mertesacker will have to continue together through at least four matches; it's "three weeks" for Gabriel on initial diagnosis.

    In addition, there may still be some doubts over Nacho Monreal's and Wojciech Szczesny's availability after both missed the trip to West London via a back injury and illness, respectively. Considering it's a cup tie, it's likely the Pole will start between the poles if he's fit to.

    Elsewhere, it appears there's no change to the injury list, with Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini likely out until at least next weekend, Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta still out until April, and Abou Diaby last seen in orbit around the Arctic Circle.

    Predicted XI: Szczesny, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Coquelin, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Cazorla, Giroud.

    Manchester United Squad News

    Out: Van Persie (ankle)
    Possibly Suspended: Evans (possibly first of possibly six, possibly spitting)

    Louis Van Gaal said that Evans was "maybe spitting on the
    floor," which is why Cisse is shown here wiping his face.
    It's finally happened! Arsenal will face Manchester United at a time when Robin van Persie is out injured! I've been waiting for this day for so long! The ex-Arsenal striker injured his ankle in the loss to Swansea on February 21 and could miss up to a month.

    Unfortunately for Arsenal, he's the only United player absent through injury. Jonny Evans, however, is facing a six-match ban for spitting at Papiss Cisse on Wednesday; Cisse will be suspended seven matches as he has been banned once already this year. The FA officially charged both yesterday, and Evans has until 18:00 GMT today to respond to the charge; Evans has maintained his innocence, while Cisse has already accepted his ban. If Evans is unavailable, it'll be Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the center of defense.

    My predicted XI includes a mix of Angel Di Maria, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, and Radamel Falcao which, even with Robin van Persie injured, leaves Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata available from the bench.

    Predicted XI: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Rojo, Blind, Herrera, Di Maria, Young, Rooney, Falcao.

    Current Form

    **takes vigorous notes**
    To discuss this section, we must first answer the question, "What is form?" The Oxford English Dictionary defines form as "The essential determinant principle of a thing; that which makes anything (matter) a determinate species or kind of being; the essential creative quality."

    All right, I might have picked the wrong one of the 21 definitions.

    Point is, Arsenal and Manchester United are both currently in runs of form (or, essential determinants) where they are winning matches almost in spite of themselves. Arsenal have won four straight in the league for the first time this season and none of them have been convincing: a nervy 2-1 over Leicester, a nervy 2-1 over Crystal Palace, a bumpy 2-0 over Everton, and a nervy 2-1 over QPR.

    Manchester United have been leaving it late, like they always have. Ashley Young found the winner in the 89th minute on Wednesday against Newcastle. Last weekend, United needed a penalty and red card in the 66th minute before they led at home against Sunderland. A few weeks back, they needed an injury time equalizer to take a point from West Ham in London. They're still getting the results to stay in the top four, but they haven't been winning convincingly.

    Why do I get the feeling this is going to be an ugly match of football?

    Match Facts

    Arsenal's only FA Cup tie win at Old Trafford came in a
    turbulent 2-0 win in 2003. Afterward, Sir Alex Ferguson
    allegedly kicked a boot in the locker room, cutting
    David Beckham.
    Manchester United have had the better of Arsenal in recent meetings, which you probably know already (possibly because I copied and pasted a lot of this section from several previous previews.) In 2006/07, Arsenal won both league meetings between the sides. Since that year, across all competitions, United have met Arsenal 19 times. Arsenal have won two of those matches, drawn four, and lost 13.

    United are unbeaten in their last ten home matches against Arsenal, winning nine of them (and clinching the league title with the one draw.) September 17, 2006 marks Arsenal's last win at Old Trafford, during that aforementioned season when Arsenal took six points from United. That match ended 1-0; Emmanuel Adebayor had the 86th minute winner. Since then, in ten matches at Old Trafford, United has outscored Arsenal 23-5.

    These sides have already met once this season, at the Emirates, with United winning 2-1. Arsenal had over 61% of the possession and generated nine shots on target, but a Kieran Gibbs own goal in a massively unlucky sequences gave the visitors the lead against the run of play. Wojciech Szczesny was injured in the sequence, forcing Emiliano Martinez into his first Premier League appearance; United made it 2-0 from a counterattack in the 85th before Olivier Giroud, himself returning from injury, pulled one back in injury time to make the scoreline more respectable.

    These two clubs have met in the FA Cup 13 times previously; United have won seven ties to Arsenal's six, with two matches drawn (including the 2005 final which Arsenal won on penalties.) United's victories have come in 1951, 1962, 1983, 1999, 2004, 2008, and 2011. Arsenal's victories, which include two finals, have come in 1906, 1937, 1979, 1988, 2003, and 2005. Arsenal have only once won an FA Cup tie at Old Trafford; that was in 2003 when Edu and Sylvain Wiltord scored in a 2-0 win.

    The Referee

    Bad hair is a bookable offense.
    The referee is Northumberland-based Michael Oliver. Arsenal have seen Oliver four times already this season, with a record of two wins and two draws in those matches. Oliver worked the very first Arsenal match of the season, the 3-0 Community Shield win over Manchester City. He's also already worked one of Arsenal's three previous FA Cup ties, specifically the 3-2 win over Brighton. In the league, he was in the middle for Arsenal's 1-1 draw with Spurs and 2-2 draw at Liverpool.

    For Manchester United, Oliver has worked their 1-0 loss at Manchester City, from which Chris Smalling was sent off, as well as their 1-1 draw at Stoke on New Year's Day.

    Oliver was in the middle for the league meeting between Arsenal and United at Old Trafford last year, which ended 1-0 to United.

    Around England
    • Saturday (early): Bradford City v. Reading; Coral Windows Stadium, Bradford
    • Saturday (Premier League): Queens Park Rangers v. Tottenham Hotspur; Loftus Road, London
    • Saturday (late): Aston Villa v. West Bromwich Albion; Villa Park, Birmingham
    • Sunday (late): Liverpool v. Blackburn Rovers; Anfield, Liverpool
    John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner and terrified follower of the Church of Darmo, Devourer of Souls. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat. Hail Darmo.

    Preview by Numbers: Queens Park Rangers v. Arsenal

    Loftus Road, London
    Wednesday, March 4
    2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 GMT
    • Match Officials
      • Referee: Kevin Friend
      • Assistants: Mike Mullarkey and Mick McDonough
      • 4th Official: Lee Probert
    • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 1 QPR
    • This Match, Last Time: QPR 0 - 1 Arsenal (May 4, 2013)
    • All-Time in All Competitions: 23 Arsenal wins, 15 QPR wins, 14 draws
    • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-L-W-W-W
    • QPR's League Form: L-L-L-L-W-L
    If you don't think this might be a trap game, I should remind
    you that it has been before.
    We're getting into fixture congestion time. Match number four of eight in a progression from Saturday to Wednesday to Sunday to Wednesday to Monday to Saturday to Tuesday to Saturday; maybe there'll be a ninth if the cup tie comes back to London.

    Games like this one, QPR away with a huge FA Cup tie on the horizon, are trap games. Arsenal have lost some trap games like this one before. For example, in 2012, when they lost 2-1 at Loftus Road. Arsenal, trying to close that famous gap on Tottenham, had won seven straight in the league before that match. The very first thing I said in that match's preview? "I'm not going to lie; this game worries me..."

    Arsenal are still in third after this weekend's fixtures and are starting to talk a little bit about catching City for second. You can't take your eyes off that prize for a second, especially on the road against a relegation candidate.

    Huge three points on the table, no doubt about it.

    Arsenal Squad News

    Out: Wilshere (ankle,) Flamini (groin,) Debuchy (shoulder,) Arteta (calf,) Diaby (calf)
    Doubts: Coquelin (broken nose,) Ramsey (hamstring)

    Aaron Ramsey is shown here in training using laser vision
    to suspend the ball in midair.
    Welcome to the Rotation Station! Arsenal have played twice since the last time QPR played a match so now seems like an ideal time to use some of that depth we've got...

    The trickiest situation, however, is in defensive midfield after Francis Coquelin had to be removed from Sunday's match with a broken nose. If he's able to start, he will likely be wearing a protective mask that will hopefully look really, really badass. Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey could be back in contention as he has been back in full training since last week.

    I didn't get the chance to talk about this in last weekend's preview, but Jack Wilshere has had what appears to be a minor setback (of course he has.) As Arsene Wenger put it, he needed "a little surgery." A little surgery? How do you have a little surgery? That's the Arsenal-ist way of putting that I could imagine. Mathieu Flamini is still out after suffering a setback of his own (of course he has,) meaning that if Ramsey and Coquelin can't go, then Calum Chambers might have to start in the deep-lying midfield role. Perhaps Tomas Rosicky can be deployed as a little bit of protection as well, though obviously he'd be a little more advanced positionally.

    Up top, Alexis Sanchez has looked a bit jaded as of late, so we'll likely get a good amount of rotation in the attacking midfield. Then again, perhaps Wenger will ask Sanchez if he wants the day off, at which point Alexis will write his own name into the starting XI. Elsewhere, maybe we'll be able to get Santi Cazorla a rest too ahead of a big trip to Old Trafford on Monday. I'm not sure about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as he is himself just returning from a long layoff.

    Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Rosicky, Ozil, Welbeck, Walcott, Giroud.

    QPR Squad News

    Out: Taarabt (groin,) Fer (knee,) Dunne (knee,) Faurlin (knee)
    Doubts: Kranjcar (knock,) Sandro (knee,) Isla (knee,) Onuoha (hamstring)
    Suspended: Barton (first of three, violent conduct)

    Joey Barton is shown getting sent off in QPR's last match.
    This might be the best thing Anthony Taylor has done all year.
    Sandro, the Brazilian midfielder signed from Tottenham at the summer deadline, could make his first appearance for QPR since late November; he's been dealing with a knee injury but, if he passes fit, he could start in place of the suspended Joey Barton. Elsewhere in the middle, there are doubts over another ex-Spur, Niko Kranjcar, who picked up a knock and was removed on 78 minutes from QPR's last match against Hull the weekend before last.

    There will also be late fitness tests for Mauricio Isla and Nedum Onuoha.

    Adel Taarabt (how many former Tottenham players does this team have?!) is suffering through a bit of a lost season and is expected to miss this match with a groin injury; the Moroccan has made only five appearances for QPR this year. He's also been hampered by illness and a groin injury this season but in October, Harry Redknapp accused Taarabt of being overweight and unwilling to train.

    The Hoops have three players out with long-term knee injuries in Leroy Fer, Richard Dunne, and Alejandro Faurlin.

    Predicted XI: Green, Suk-Young, Caulker, Ferdinand, Furlong, Phillips, Kranjcar, Henry, Traore, Zamora, Austin.

    Current Form

    Arsenal are suddenly scoring from corners regularly.
    The roller coaster that is Arsenal's form continues to roll on as the Gunners followed up their poor Champions League showing with a clean sheet victory; Arsenal have now won 16 of their last 21 across all competitions, but those five dropped games (at Stoke, at Liverpool, at Southampton, at Spurs, and last Wednesday vs. Monaco) all stung in different ways. Still, Arsenal were eighth in the league after they lost to Manchester United in November and are now in third.

    On the whole, Arsenal's road form leaves a little to be desired, as you could figure; they've taken 21 of a possible 42 points in road games. It probably will not surprise you that all five of their road losses have come against teams in the top half of the table; they have earned seven of a possible 24 points (29%) against other top half teams, with only Old Trafford left to visit. Against the bottom half, however, they've earned 14 out of 18 points (78%) with four still to play (QPR tonight, Newcastle later this month, Burnley in April, and Hull City in May.)

    QPR finally earned a point on the road with a 2-0 win over Sunderland on February 10; it is their only win in their last 10 across all competitions. The Hoops' home form has helped them just enough, though, as they are out of the relegation zone on goal difference. It took Manchester United a long time to finally break QPR down at Loftus Road, it took a bonkers finish for Liverpool to come away with all three points, while Manchester City could only salvage a draw. QPR's road form is rock bottom, but they are 12th in the league at home.

    Match Facts

    Arsenal still won the match over QPR despite Giroud's
    moment of madness.
    Arsenal won the reverse fixture on Boxing Day by a 2-1 scoreline. Despite Alexis Sanchez's early penalty that was saved, the Gunners were leading comfortably for much of the way; Sanchez made up for the poor penalty by scoring the opener. On 53 minutes, however, a moment of madness from Olivier Giroud saw him sent off for a headbutt. Tomas Rosicky doubled the lead for ten man Arsenal, but a dubious penalty brought QPR back into the match on 79 minutes. The final quarter of an hour played out nervously for the Gunners, but ultimately saw the home side take all three points.

    The last time this fixture was played, in early May of 2013, Theo Walcott opened the scoring just 20 seconds into the match. That was all that happened, as Arsenal held on for 90 minutes to win 1-0. That was Arsenal's first league win at Loftus Road since November 24, 1990.

    Over their last 15 league meetings, Arsenal have just five wins against QPR. This stat is largely meaningless since prior to the two seasons QPR spent in the top flight between 2011 and 2013, the club had not been in the Premier League since their relegation in 1996. The Gunners have won three straight meetings between the two teams and four the of last five since QPR's 2011 promotion and subsequent yo-yoing.

    The Referee

    Kevin Friend was no friend of Arsenal for much of the match
    against Everton back in August.
    The referee is Leicestershire-based Kevin Friend. Arsenal have seen Friend twice this year, for the 2-2 draw at Everton in August and the 2-0 win at Sunderland in October. Many of Friend's calls in that first match felt like they went against Arsenal (more like Kevin Enemy, amirite?) Four different Arsenal players were booked to Everton's one, while Arsenal were whistled for 18 fouls to Everton's 10. Arsenal's comeback, however, and subsequent win in October means they still have not lost a match with Friend as the referee, with five wins and three draws over eight matches.

    As for QPR, they have seen Friend only once this season, for a 2-0 loss at Swansea in early December. His last match at Loftus Road was a 1-1 draw with Millwall in a London derby late last season in the Championship.

    Friend was recently in charge of the Southampton v. Liverpool match in which he denied the Saints two penalty shouts within the early potion of the game, though only the second of the two appeared to be legitimate on replay. He later failed to send off Simon Mignolet when he appeared to intentionally handle outside of the box.

    Around the League
    • Tuesday: Southampton 1 - 0 Crystal Palace
    • Tuesday: Aston Villa 2 - 1 West Bromwich Albion
    • Tuesday: Hull City 1 - 1 Sunderland
    • Wednesday: Manchester City v. Leicester City; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
    • Wednesday: Newcastle United v. Manchester United; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
    • Wednesday: Stoke City v. Everton; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
    • Wednesday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Swansea City; White Hart Lane, London
    • Wednesday: West Ham United v. Chelsea; Boleyn Ground, London
    • Wednesday (late): Liverpool v. Burnley; Anfield, Liverpool
    John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner and a type of shortwave radio station characterized by unusual broadcasts of lists of numbers, which are widely assumed to transmit covert messages to spies. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to find out 9-4-6 4-6-5-8-7-3-3 3-4-2-2-9.