As Arsenal head north to St James’ Park, lots of talk of winning titles is in the air, a sure sign that Spring is about to be sprung. Sir Alex Ferguson has targetted ten more wins for his team, believing that will secure the title. Maths has never been his strong point because if Arsenal win twelve (and one of those is over United), they will be crowned Champions in May.
Meanwhile, Gaël Clichy has been talking of his “obsession with silverware“. He is completely obsessed by it because the conversation is almost the same that he had in October of last year; that qualifies as an obsession. Before any amateur psychologists go ranting on about kleptomania, I suspect it is more of a driving force in his life that he be remembered as a winner, or part of a winning team.
That will not apply to Nicklas Bendter though. He will believe that anything won is down to him, even if he has not been on the pitch. Equally confident is Wojciech Szczesny, perhaps even more ruthless than he is given credit for. The Pole has probably progressed more this season than he expected, opportunities arising and he has seized them,
I am ambitious and I want to be No1…I have been in the squad for every game since, although I know it’s a coincidence because Manu [Almunia] got injured
And have been first choice since Lukasz Fabianski was injured – there is a theme here, one for the conspiracy theorists, or Radio 5Live listeners as they are more commonly known.
Szczesny received the praise of Jens Lehmann earlier this week, which was typically back-handed although truthful,
He has got everything he needs apart from the experience and the maturity, so he needs to work hard
It is something Szczesny is aware of but his thoughts on meeting Barcelona and the latter stages of the season sum up the improvement at Arsenal this season,
We are a much better team than we were last year. Every single player is a year older and a year better. We are a bunch of confident guys and this year, there is no psychological barrier
Back to this afternoon. Newcastle has been a reasonably lucky ground for Arsène with his teams only suffering two defeats, 2-4 in 2000 and 0-1 in 2005. That said, it is no guarantee of victory as there have been seven draws and six wins in his other visits. Wenger has brought his side to this part of the North East twice previously in February, twice returning home with a 1-1 draw in the bag.
The form book suggests an away win. Arsenal have won their last six games and since losting at Old Trafford, are unbeaten in the Premier League. In contrast, Newcastle have not won for a month, including being knocked out of the FA Cup by Stevenage, and have won only two of the last six at St James’ Park.
Their home form is not spectacular this season twelve games shared equally between wins, draws and defeats. Arsenal have taken eight more points away from home than today’s hosts have won at home. The best away record in the Premier League is coming to town and on paper, there is no reason to believe that it won’t improve.
Except football is not played on paper. Arsenal have mixed injury news; Theo Walcott has returned to the squad but Alex Song joins Denilson and Nasri on the sidelines. The latter, alongside Vermaelen, are the only two first team regulars who are missing for substantial lengths of time. Song was rated as “70:30” by the manager for this game so his thigh injury sustained in the win over Everton was not as bad as was feared.
He has not made the trip to Tyneside though and I suspect the line-up Arsène will go with is,
Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy; Fàbregas, Diaby, Wilshere; Walcott, van Persie, Arshavin
Three points is necessary to keep the pressure on United. Despite Wolves decent home record this season, I still expect the current leaders to have too much for them. Any slip by them needs an Arsenal win to capitalise on it.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.