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!