Newcastle United Preview: Substance Over Style

When Bill Oddie told us all to “Make a daft noise for Christmas”, I don’t think he had “Who wants another beer?” in mind. This morning, I can assure you that it is a silly a noise as you can ever wish to hear.

Newcastle United arrive at the Emirates as the most of ‘out of form’ Premier League side which comes as a surprise to many of us. They must be bad if our seven dropped points out of nine isn’t the worst in the top flight.

And they are but despite losing seven in a row, they arrive at the Emirates expecting to come away with something. I’d like to be confident that it will be a damn good thrashing, but I’m not. It could be but there is as much chance of our taking a laborious three points as that happening. More chance, I’d venture.

And we can’t rule out another goalless draw; December is the new November.

Arsène had a lot of work to do between Wednesday night and today. I’m sure he’ll moan about lack of rest, they all do. However, it is what it is and he can talk about “petrol and ‘ideas'” all he likes, but the here and now is that Manchester City are not just in a different postcode, they’ve reached the port and are boarding the ferry to a different country.

City aren’t worth talking about in any competitive sense. They are almost champions before Christmas, with none of the chasing pack showing any inclination to do much chasing.

Your Flexible Friend

So what does Arsène do? There’s a good case for sticking with the back four, not on a permanent basis but as an option for flexibility. Who beyond Bellerin should be in? I’m guessing it will be Koscielny and Monreal again, with Kolasinac at left back. West Ham in the League Cup on Tuesday means Chambers and Holding – probably Per as well – will be playing then.

That logic holds for Jack Wilshere. If he plays today, he misses Tuesday and I don’t think Arsène will risk him for two games in three days, especially as he noted how Jack flagged in the final twenty minutes. Personally, I think he’s done enough to warrant a new deal and I’d question why a manager who is ready to hand out contracts to other injured players, isn’t doing the same now.

Maybe that will be answered but I’m not holding my breath. Contracts as ever are something of a moot point and Arsenal have lost control of the situation. Not through any fault of the new guys but Wenger’s procrastination, Alexis’ blunt refusal and Özil’s larking around, created a state of flux. Add Wilshere, and now Ramsey, along with Welbeck, is refusing to sign a new deal, according to the Times.

It’s a clusterf*ck of almost unimaginable proportions that the manager and board created. Next summer, the questions about Arsène’s future begin, entrenching the cycle into the club’s psyche. That’s one hell of a legacy to leave behind.

I’m going to be upfront here: I won’t be bothered if Welbeck leaves but would move heaven and earth to keep Ramsey and Wilshere. Özil, in my view, isn’t suited to Arsenal as we are now, at £300k per week and Alexis left last summer, although his body is still at the club.

Brand New Start

People are calling it the ‘Alexis Tax’, the constantly losing possession. It’s only an issue because he’s not scoring. He’s never been any different; he always gave the ball away.

Arsène defends Alexis by claiming it’s a brand new role that the player’s adjusting to. It is; he thought he was a Manchester City striker but finds himself wearing an Arsenal shirt.

Mock all you like about he won’t get in their side but he will, in the same way, Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Sane, Sterling and others do. They accept the squad system because they have genuine competition for places and are winning honours. We are a million miles off both.

This afternoon? With the changes which must happen in central midfield, there’s a strong case for dropping him and bringing in Welbeck and Walcott either side of Özil in support of Lacazette, stretching the banks of five we will face.

Anyway, back to the game today. The biggest question mark is over Granit Xhaka. Confidence, as with all the XI, is an issue and his began seeping away a long time ago. Like the air slowly leaking from a pinhole in a balloon. This afternoon, in my view, is the time to bring in Elneny as an insurance policy alongside him and with a view to replacing him over Christmas.

I don’t think Ainsley Maitland-Niles is ready for the rigours of the central midfield role in the Premier League so we’re left with Coquelin or the Egyptian; I’ll take the latter.

Elneny will recycle the ball efficiently and I expect we will hit around 75-80% possession today. We’ve got to keep the pressure on Newcastle’s shaky defence.

Anyway, the team:

Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac; Elneny, Xhaka; Walcott, Özil, Welbeck; Lacazette

Deliver Us From Boredom

Will we win? Yes, narrowly, I think but three points is all we need to keep taking. Substance over style to get us back on track.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

 

88 thoughts on “Newcastle United Preview: Substance Over Style

  1. The sooner someone beats this 15 years old unbeaten record, the better. Time to deal with the current reality and face the facts: we are quickly moving towards midtable.

    Interestingly Arsene Wenger pointed out we’ve just had two “tough” away games. Is this the same person who won the league three times 15 years ago? If these away games are tough, which games are not tough? BATE at home? Playing all these tough games in the domestic league has become a burden for Arsenal?

  2. Great preview Yogi. Our poor away form means that every home game against mid and lower table teams is a must win. Today might even be one of those games that we use to paper over the cracks by scoring 4-5 goals and filling up the stat sheet against an out of form opponent. When that happens we get excited about whichever combination of players happen to be in the line up today and hope that maybe we have finally found the answer to all of our problems. It becomes a never ending cycle of false dawns. I am confident we will take 3 points today.

  3. Newcastle today, well its funny everybody bangs on about a DM and an Arsenal man and we had one in Hayden and then Flamini took his ankles when he was set to push on and Arsene pushed him out the club and now he has turned into a player at Newcastle.

    O well, on to our current players.

    I would go:

    Cech
    Bellerin—-Mustafi—–Chambers—-Sead
    ———Elneny———-Jack
    Theo———Ozil————-Welbeck
    Lacazette

    But we all know Arsene will not drop Sanchez.

  4. Official team is in:

    Cech
    Bellerin—-Kos—–Nacho—-Maitland-Niles
    ————-Xhaka——–Jack
    Iwobi——–Ozil———–Sanchez
    Lacazette

    Subs:Ospina, Chambers, Sead, Le Coq, Elneny, Welbeck, Giroud

  5. Did Kolasinac forget to send Wenger a Christmas card? I can’t see any other reason for playing Maitland -Niles instead of him.

  6. Orson Kaert,

    Good afternoon all. In 100% agreement with you Orson. Iwobi has plateaued. He’s not a striker nor is a true midfielder. He was shot in the last game.

    Although competent at CD Nacho should be fighting, in competition with Sead at left back. I’m an admirer of N Miles but he’s being set up to fail. FFS AW play players in the “normal” positions.

    I’ve about had enough of this Mans “spin” on things. He puts Alistair Campbell to shame… Packed defences …oil money.. He gets paid a handsome wage annually to do something.

    I am at the point where I can stand to watch him anymore. The last person I truly detested was was M Thatcher. AW is not to far behind.
    Irrespective of if we win today it is just papering over the cracks. His excuses are akin to somebody whom has a problem with halitosis. A bad stench, mauvaise Odeur hangs like a thick fog over the Emirates.

  7. Hello,

    Do you remember when Bellerin was fast😀.

    Do we play so slow or has he lost a yard and is Özil playing next to Xhaka?

  8. Today might be would be a good day for us to score 5 and Ozil and Sanchez to pad their stats and give themselves a bit of extra wage negotiation leverage.

  9. Think we could give Debuchy a game. Pretty certain that wouldn’t be detrimental to Bellerins form.

  10. C

    I know you have always been a fan and of Hayden but he looks underwhelming at best. I guess we could always use a bit more meh in the squad.

  11. Been in charge of the game and the goal was sublime. Maitland-Niles is having another great game. I’m still a bit concerned that has such little regard for his back up CBs. Monreal is doing a good job again, but its still not the best option for a back four. We either need to another CB in January, or have faith in one of the youngsters. I’d like to see Chambers given a shot myself.

  12. Maitland-Niles has been a square peg that Arsène has used in several round holes and he has always done well. None of the complaining about being out of position. He is right footed and certainly not well suited for LB but unlike Bellerin early in the season he does not let that affect his defense. He looks better on the attacking end then Bellerin even though Hector is on his strong foot.

  13. A lot of space, but our transition is slow, suboptimal movement and no proper understanding. It will not matter today, but generally such toothless transition may be the reason why we are 7th after 17 games

  14. Not on the box, no decent stream, so reliant on Gillette Soccer Saturday. Quite a goal by Mesut, according to Matt Le Tissier.

  15. Obviously you wouldn’t play BFG as a winger but within reason a good player should be able to adapt to a change in position and may be not be at his best but he should still be a good player.

  16. C,

    Yepp, I can see their feathers rising if we don’t score another goal. An equalizer in the waiting?

  17. Iwobi flatters to deceive again. It looks good, but no end product. Wenger seems to be blinded by the pretty stuff when we actually need someone who can deliver, either with goals or the delivery for others.

  18. Lacazette hasn’t quite been on it today. Could do with having someone on the pitch to deliver crosses for Giroud though. Lacazette having a strop as he comes off.

  19. It actually must have been more difficult to hit the keeper than the goal!
    Dear lord, chances don’t get better than that😤.

  20. How many chances have tgey had in the last 5 minutes? We’ve totally gone off the boil and they haven’t punished us so far.

  21. This is truly a game were we stayed in 2nd gear too long and instead of pushing on, we are having moments by individual players but overall we look meh.

    Ozil is driving and Jack is huffing but Sanchez was poor and Lacazette’s finishing wasn’t up to his standards. Welbeck has brought us nothing and Giroud is Giroud. Maitland-Niles has been superb

  22. If Wenger blames yet another average performance on the game against United I will go down there and throttle him myself. If the players are that affected by it the manager needs to address it on the training pitch. Hoping the players will put it behind them if they don’t talk about it clearly doesn’t wirk.

  23. Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles: We need to carry on with the great performances and not concede.

    Eh?? 😨

  24. There was a bit left off the end of the quote…..and not concede the fact that we’ve been crap for the last several games.

  25. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger speaking to BBC’s Match of the Day: “Overall we deserved to win – we had plenty of chances. In the final 10 minutes we became edgy. Overall, I feel we dominated.”

    “It was physically difficult today after three games in six days.

    “Ozil’s goal was a gem. Good that he scores important goals. That was a great goal.

    “The strange thing in our last games is that our displays have been good but we didn’t win. That’s why it’s important to win today.

    “I had an eye on Jack Wilshere. He takes advaatage from long preparation and good stamina.

    “Ainsley Maitland-Niles could have had a goal. He was sharp.”

  26. C,

    I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s still only one. How close did we come to dropping points, our defence just don’t know how to shut a game down. We just can’t rely on a one goal lead.

  27. 3 points from a must win game and a clean sheet which is very good. A couple of nervy minutes at the end but you never go thru an entire game without a couple of those and this back 4 has kept 2 clean sheets in a row.

    I never really had much doubt that we would hold on for all 3 points. However before the game started and even into the second half I really thought this would be a real chance for a 5-0 game and everyone would get excited about Alexis, Wilshere, Ozil, Lacazette. (AWOL). The goals I expected never happened. I am sure the stats will say we created a lot of chances but I thought we were drab and other then Wilshere’s miss there were not a lot of really good chances for most of the game which is why I don’t really put much stock in that stat.

  28. I agree with C and Maitland-Niles has been impressive. Watching him adapt to multiple different positions is why I think the stuff we talk about all the time with regard to square pegs is a heavy dose of over thinking and a bad excuse for poor performances from players. A player is not going to be at his best playing out of position but a good player is a good player and he should find a way to be a positive influence or at least not hurt the team no matter where he plays.

  29. C

    With regard to Hayden we all tend to over rate players we like. It’s only one game but he seems like he has found his ceiling with a bottom of the table team. He certainly does not strike me as the sort of player that any of the worlds big teams would want as their DM.

  30. We dominated the possession and the game and dominated the stat sheet with 22 shots. I only remember one really good chance we created when Giroud set up Wilshere. How many of those shots we took were more then 1/4th or even 1/10th chances. However, I bet the stat sheet says we created lots of chances and that is why I think the way they record a “chance created” is rubbush and unfortunately it makes that stat mostly meaningless.

  31. Citeh remind me of the Arsenal of yesteryear. That are superb, frankly, petrol money or not.

    If AW was the best manager in the early 21st Century, we are looking at the best manager of this era, in Pep Guardiola.

    Great to watch —- gut wrenching to think how far we have slipped back. 😫

  32. We think of Man City as a ball possession team and they are but when they attack they attack at pace and they play with tempo. They only drop into ball possession mode when their first fast paced attack is stopped.

  33. The only chance anyone will have to stop Man city is to sit back as deep as possible and hope you can nick a goal somehow. Spurs tried to play football with them and came close to 50 percent ball possession but city will cut apart any team that tries to play with them on the counter attack.

  34. We are back in 4th place depending on what happens when Liverpool plays. A lot of well deserved pessimism about our chance to finish 4th after the last couple of games but I think it will come down to results in game 38.

  35. Bill,

    City had 20 shots on goal, 11 of which were on target. We had 23 shots on goal and only managed to achieve 5 on target. A 1 in 5 conversion rate isn’t a disaster, but only getting 5 out of 23 on target is. It suggests that we are either wasteful, shooting from distance all of the time, or taking too long on the ball which allows a determined defence to set themselves in front of us and stifle our shooting. We already know that possession football for the sake of it is utterly meaningless. Only our manager seems to regard more time on the ball as a sign of dominance.

  36. Second from last in the running order on MOTD. Only Brighton and Burnley’s bore draw rated lower for excitement.

  37. Wavey

    That is why I think the chance created stat is so worthless. I don’t know the numbers but I will bet the stats will say we created chances today but you watched the game and you know that other then the Wilshere chance none of those shots was really very likely to score. Even Ozils goal came on a “chance” that you would not expect to be finished most of the time. Our finishers are not great anyway and we handcuff by making them try to finish thru an organized packed defense.

  38. Bill,

    There were other really close chances most notably Maitland-Niles with a driving run and hitting the outside post as well as Xhaka’s low drive O and Lacazette’s dink that he put a bit to much on.

    Maitland-Niles is a player that deserves to play more not only in his unconventional LB position but also centrally because defensively he doesn’t back down and reads the game well.

    As far as Hayden, I would say he is a good solid player that we simply don’t know how he would have developed i our first team but for Newcastle he has been massive not only last season but this season as well.

  39. C

    Maitland-Niles has done really well playing out f position on the left. It’s another reason why I think the conventional wisdom that has developed on the blog regarding square pegs is over thinking. All of this may well be his adrenaline fueled over performance that we have seen so often but Nacho is a good LB and once Mustafi comes back I think we should drop Bellerin and move Maitland-Nike’s to the right flank. Maitland-Niles has certainly outplayed Hector on both ends of the pitch even though Hector is on his favored side.

    Regarding Hayden I suspect you are over rating him or perhaps we have a different definition of massive. Hayden certainly did not make me think that any of the bigger clubs will looking to sign him if/when Newcastle gets relegated.

  40. i think most people would consider having AWOL on the pitch would be our most creative and best attacking team. Despite having those players at home against one of the leagues poorer teams we could not make much happen today.

  41. Bill,

    Lot of stat chat which usually bores me to tears being an artist but arseblog news carries interesting figures from season so far

    In short Xhaka, Ramsey and Alexis are pissing away chances outside the box at 1% or something whilst Man U and city are scoring 10% outside box

    I think AW needs to rest Xhaka

    He is played every game like our rock but is a liability. Not a bad player but rotate his ass

  42. Wenger always has excuses: too many games in a short time period, unkind fixture list, champions league, early start….and more besides. Most of these issues are known and he is paid 10million sterling to solve them, but hasn’t. Compare to Clough when asked why Forest got relegated: the players weren’t good enough and the manager wasn’t good enough was his straight answer to a straight question. The last fig leaf has fallen away for Wenger and he ust see that unless he dramatically changes his recruiting policy and his approach to preparing for games he will be removed. I hope the new guys brought in can get 2 or 3 in this window( more of Ozil and Sanchez leave) and reAlly sort out the mess in the summer with ( net ) 7 at least coming in. Tall order but I guess they were hired to do that.
    Good three points but back in the day that would have been a home banker

  43. In recent weeks we have seen a clear demonstration of the failings of Wenger’s approach. Five points out of a possible nine from teams we would expect to be beating just isn’t good enough. In all three games we laboured and could well have come away with nothing. Possession football clearly doesn’t work in the PL, as the opposition is more than happy to drop deep and pack the defence. Most teams in the PL have the ability to counter attack and a defence as questionable as ours is likely to be under serious pressure at some point in a game. We’ve said in the past that a better team would have scored, but the previous two games demonstrate that they don’t have to be that much better. If this were just a blip we could hope that we get back on track soon, but we’ve seen the same pattern way too often over the Emirates years. We’re up against Liverpool next Friday night and their free scoring in recent weeks could see us undone, as we were at the start of the season.

  44. And the Arsenal in 4th with a win, 12-13 in home games and progressed in Europa.
    Hmmm??
    Just half full, I know there are serious problems.

  45. Aaron,

    It feels a little bit like a couple of seasons ago where we weren’t playing that well, but neither were the teams around us. Leicester won it that season mainly because neither we, nor Tottenham could string it together well enough to take the title. This season City are the runaway leaders, but we should be closer than we are. Even if we don’t perform that well against the top teams, we should be much better against teams like Stoke, Watford, Southampton and West Ham. Two points from those four games alone is pitiful. If we are still fourth it’s because other teams around us aren’t performing well either.
    Progressing through to the knock out phase of the Europa League with the group we had should have been a given anyway. We did it with our second XI, which means our first team have even less of a reason to be playing as badly as they are. Unless of course we are all happy with Wenger’s claim that it takes at least 3 games to get over our defeat by United.

  46. Am I alone in becoming increasingly disillusioned with Lacazette? After a bright start he is steadily sinking into the pool of mediocrity which is our squad.

    Instead of the cool, clinical finisher of his earlier matches we are seeing an anxious, player who is snatching at chances and increasingly messing things up.

    Perhaps we are not playing to his strengths, or is it Wenger’s coaching (or lack of) which is causing the problem. Either way I think we all expected more goals for the money spent.

  47. Orson Kaert,

    I’m wondering if he’s snatching at chances because he gets so few of them. He has been a clinical finisher in the past and prefers to place his shots rather than leather them. With our passing around the area it is very difficult to thread a ball into a bit of space for a good chance, so perhaps he is trying to get his shots away quickly when the odd chance comes his way.

  48. Orson Kaert,

    Orson I think it’s possibly a combination of a number of things.

    He’s at a new Club, in a new country having to learn a new language and new ‘ system of playing’ ( there’s no definite Arsenal style at the moment) and is consistently substituted. I m guessing that this would have some influence, affect on his ability to perform.

    He’s been systematically substituted by AW. I look at Klopp, Guardiola, Zidane a younger generation and see how these respective managers are more humain, there is a warmth between Player and Manager. AW appears very sang droid. I don’t see any of the Arsenal Players ready to run through the proverbial brick wall.

    Who would you want to play for Pep or Arsene?

  49. ….but seriously Ras, he’s had the best part of half a season to settle in and to learn how we play. Despite the benching and substitutions, I certainly expected more from him.

  50. C and I have talked about Lacazette a few times. He is a clinical finisher when he can find space and gets the ball in a good position and when he scores its usually been on the end of a passing move. However at least so far he depends on his teammates to help create his chances and he is not the sort of player who creates his own opportunities. When we allow the defense to organize they can cover the space in the dangerous areas of the pitch and we don’t create the sort of chances that he needs to be effective.

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