Newcastle United Preview: The Contractual Obligation Match

This match feels like a contractual obligation, the one you have to play but aren’t really interested in.

We can’t take the Van Morrison route out of this. The croaky old toad, as NME referred to him in the 80s, recorded something like 30 ‘songs’ in one day to fulfil a bad recording deal. Most of them were unreleasable; Morrison strumming his guitar haphazardly with a drum backtrack. The lyrics, if you can call them that, were drunken trash talk.

Mind you, it’s not hard to make an argument that we’ve approached this Premier League season in much the same vein.

It won’t be a surprise to see plenty of rotation this afternoon. Koscielny will drop out with his Achilles rendering it almost impossible for him to play two games in three days. Unless, of course, it’s a World Cup finals and France are doing the asking…

Hector Bellerin, if Ainsley Maitland-Niles is fully fit – which seems unlikely – is another candidate but the rest is down to preference.

The rest? Tactical. One tactic I’d like is Aubameyang and Lacazette in the same XI. It’s going to happen next season so, crazy ol’ me, why not go and practice it now? Weirdo; imagine preparing for next season now.

Jack Wilshere is one casualty; his form – the result of burn-out or resentment? – warrants being dropped. I’d hazard a guess, his ankles are demanding it. Not only that, Mohamed Elneny’s performances demand a run in the side. While Wenger’s loyalty to players is in some respects admirable, it is stifling for a player such as Elneny who plays well.

There’s no doubt in my mind, the midfield finds a balance with his inclusion. As Granit Xhaka finds consistency in his game, the pairing forms a good base for the team.

What So Important about Tonight?

Similarly, questions exist over Aaron Ramsey’s fitness. I’d venture he will play today if Arsène is making significant changes elsewhere. Alex Iwobi will probably come in if Wenger is tempted into playing with the XI. I know there are calls for Reiss Nelson to start but can we afford to mess around so much?

While there is a temptation to make wholesale changes, give youth a chance, etc., there’s a balance. We’re six games unbeaten but without an away win in the Premier League since 2017. Although that language seems overly dramatic in intent, it serves as a reminder to our form.

And we must prepare for Atletico. In a fortnight’s time, we must click into defensive gear. This is the last game where Wenger can play around with the XI. We lack discipline at the back and instilling that into the squad takes longer than 3 games, but we’ve got to rediscover it that quickly.

We know it’s there, just very well hidden.

Newcastle is a happy hunting ground. We’ve won the last ten meetings between the sides and Tottenham have given us hours of fun at St James Park as well.

It’s interesting to see how the Premier League has flipped in the club’s eyes. Yes, they worry about not getting European football next season – that’s the Europa League as a minimum – and the prize money, but it’s the same as the FA Cup, the EFL Cup were.

We’re more focused on another competition. A new toy fulfils our desire and we’re set for any number of Blackburn or Stoke XIs and consequent performances. With Burnley beating Leicester, is sixth so different from seventh from our perspective? While I’m not suggesting we’re ‘throwing’ this one, but is it so important as far as the season is concerned?

If You don’t Co-operate, You’re Gonna Suffer from “Fistophobia”.

The line-up I expect is:

Cech; Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Kolasinac; Elneny, Xhaka (Ramsey); Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck; Aubameyang

Whatever the team is, we expect a strong performance. I know; demanding supporter. Me and my expectations. It’ll be the ruin of me and this club.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.


88 thoughts on “Newcastle United Preview: The Contractual Obligation Match

  1. Michael says:

    Morning guys

    I have a strange feeling that Rafa has a plan to stifle us, whether they have enough to win is in the lap of the gods, but not expecting too much from it. Hope of course but…

  2. Adam Singh says:

    willock in midfield today. No ozil ramsey or Wilshere on the bench. Aubameyang and Lacazette both start. Be interesting to see who plays centrally.

  3. C says:


    Subs: Ospina, Maitland-Niles, Mertesacker, Kolasinac, Nelson, Welbeck, Nketiah

    I would love to see Macey get some match time

  4. C says:

    I would imagine a Elnen pushing forward and I imagine he will shine.

  5. Colts says:


    Yeah me too, he must be pants in training. Like the look of that forward line, and Weldone Willock, be that dm we need.

  6. C says:

    Aubameyang to Lacazette!!!! Its a fucking dream come true

  7. Colts says:

    Aubameyang to Lacazette!!!! Its a fucking dream come true

    It really is.

  8. Woolwich Freddie says:

    I find the commentator’s argument that was a natural arm position unconvincing.

  9. Colts says:


    Yup, plenty of options out there too.

  10. C says:

    Holding keeps playing too high and keeps getting beat with balla over the top and that was poor defending and Cech beat yet again.

  11. Dukey says:

    How has mustafi turned himself into the worst defender in the league?

    Shocking. Truly shocking, bring back Mathew bloody Upson.

  12. Colts says:

    Didn’t listen to previous warnings with direct balls over the top. We score and still keep a very high line, though cech again should have saved that. He seemed to shut his eyes.

  13. C says:

    I mean how many balls over the top does Shelvey have to play for Mustafi, Holding and Chambers to realize that its coming??????

  14. C says:

    Willock needs to either do better or leave it to Aubameyang

  15. Colts says:


    It’s just the system we play, wouldn’t take much research to work out when the best time to attack us would be. That said, Newcastle have played some decent ball, they smell blood. Most teams do now…

  16. Colts says:

    Willock needs to either do better or leave it to Aubameyang

    He does tho I thought laca dwelled on it a bit too long then panicked and fizzed it in to him.

  17. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    I’m all for giving youngsters a go, but if we’d have Ozil on today i think we’d be 3 up easy.

    Willock just dwelling too long on balls imo. And why can’t Mustafi work out that they’ll play that ball over the top every time to Gayle….They’re isn’t much a threat from them but with no Ramsey or Ozil Laca is dropping far too deep. Auba is in heaps of space all the time but only once have we played it over the top and we got the goal.

    Come on Arsenal, we know we can beat them!

  18. C says:


    Yea and I have no problem with the system but at some point they have to judge the flight of the ball. Its funny but having Bellerin allows us to play this way with his pace but without it, Chambers is getting abused and Holding and Mustafi are poor.

  19. C says:


    Yea Lacazette did hit it a bit too hard and part of me wonders if he saw Auabmeyang but I figured Willock would do better.

    Also, I agree with you about Cech, he should have saved that. There is no way he is our #1 next season.

  20. MesutsLeftFoot says:


    i unfortunately think he will be, i think Wenger is definitely here for another season and i don’t see any MAJOR changes in team, maybe one or two signings in the ilk of Kolasnic etc, not huge names but squad players. He’ll play the we got Auba and Mikki in Jan card

  21. C says:


    Thats why I hope the new men step in and do their part to bring in a new GK or sell Ospina and Cech to at least give Macey or Martinez a chance.

  22. Colts says:


    I thought he should have just had a shot in that position

    Yeah you’d think that killer instinct would come out. I can only assume he was fighting with it mentally as he had two in better positions. Not to mention he scored off a bammy assist.

  23. C says:

    Ofcourse they would score from a long ball and a header.

  24. consolsbob says:

    Even Monreal is joining in the chaotic defending now.

    Just what do they do in training?

  25. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    Back four is absolutely stinking. I can’t even think how next season we could possibly consider that Chambers, Monreal and Mustafi are capable of delivering anything.

    no intensity
    no drive
    side ways passes

    And we wonder why we’re not top 4 anymore. Three newcastle players on that side of the pitch for that ball over

    I said it in first half, HOW can we not look at that tactically and say to defenders LONG BALL EVERY SINGLE F****** TIME

  26. MesutsLeftFoot says:


    I think they practice passing it side ways and back to cech. Which is odd as he flusters at any passes back to him as well.

    Every game we play, i look at it and think what have they actually practised for…Because Newcastle do this every game….We seem completely incapable of playing with any kind of intensity and forward thinking. It’s a break foward, stop, look up, pass it to Xhaka or Elneny and then 10s later Mustafi or Cech has it.

  27. consolsbob says:


    I just cannot see how they train. The defending has been shambolic for a long time, surely that must show in training as well. How can they be sent out like that week after week?

    There is just no sensible explanation.

  28. consolsbob says:

    It also bothers me how the forwards train if the defence is so shambolic. They must score against their mates for fun. That surely makes it all the more difficult when they actually come up against defenders who know what the6 are doing.

  29. dfb says:

    One problem might be that they train to defend against the Arsenal attack!

  30. MesutsLeftFoot says:


    We can even say the passing is good…because it’s not, it’s safe passes 90% of the time. it’s like we never drill what to do when we lose possession either. Even when we do win a ball and break, we look completely lost in what to do and it ends up getting passed sideways and backwards. People criticise Ozil, but he and Ramsey are the only ones that offer the change of a quick pass forward and as we’ve seen today, it results in us looking useless.

    I can’t see how all the other coaches don’t look at this, especially Bould and think, we’ll this is what we need to practise this week….We approach every game with the SAME tactics, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass and hope Auba or Laca/Welbeck eventually run.

    When we need to and we up the intensity, we look dangerous. But we do it 10% of a game. It’s horrible to watch a team play so slowly.

    I honestly don’t know what another manager would do with that back four…..Because they seem completely inept. Cech showed last season he wasn’t a commanding 1, but it’s ignored. No physically presence in midfield for about 13 years now…We seem to improve parts of our team which papers over cracks for a season or two

  31. Colts says:

    If manure can come back against man city…

  32. Adam Singh says:

    What a load of complete shiteness.

  33. consolsbob says:


    Papering over the cracks has been Arsene’s approach for at least 8 years now. It shows in every game that the squad is not built for the job that needs to be done.

    It is still hard to understand why a different approach is not tried. How many managers would manage this current squad, with all it’s shortcomings better than Arsene and his coaches? Hard to believe that many would not manage better.

  34. andy1886 says:

    Wenger is awful at rotation. Rather than replace one or at a maximum two first XI players on a regular basis he has to make wholesale changes that totally destabilise the team as the whim takes him. It’s also not helpful for the youngsters who come in, if they play in a strong team who can support and ease them in then they will develop. If they are thrown into a weak side that fails against poor opposition what does that do for their confidence? It’s another point about Wenger that I just do not understand.

    As for his complete lack of interest in training players to defend it’s almost perverse.

  35. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    We don’t have a leader at the club either. Kosielney, i like him, but he’s not a Adams or Viera or Henry. When i saw that team sheet, i didn’t expect much at all….

    Chambers is for the most part useless
    Holding seems to be ok but has momnets of pure panic
    Mustafi is a wildcard
    Nacho is solid at times but switches off and never seems to get help from anyone on the left
    Kos is getting on in years and doesn’t have the pace, seems to get caught wrong side too often now
    Iwobi does 100 step overs and either gets tackled or loses ball
    Xhaka seems to have had his long range passing skills coached out of him
    Elneny does a lot of running, he’s a solid playering, but he’s not physical enough and he’s not pacey enough to really warrant being a starter.

    TBH i don’t know why we sold Gabriel, i thought he was better than Miustafi is currently playing anyway.

    I just can’t see Wenger walking away, we’ve got another season minimum of this. I’m looking at players we’ve been linked with, Golovin and Racatic….Two players we don’t need. We need a CB, CDM, LB and GK and a proper winger to say the very least but knowing Wenger we’ll get a attacking midfielder and a 17 year old.

  36. C says:

    Only PL side without an away point un 2018

  37. andy1886 says:

    And yet again the lesson for AW from this game is that possession is meaningless if you don’t do anything with it. We’ve had 70%+ and looked mediocre at best. If he blathers on again about how we controlled the game he should be throttled.

  38. MesutsLeftFoot says:


    What’s odd is we do occasionally, we’ve seen performances where we come and and play a solid pressing game and everyone seems to know who they’re tracking and marking, Chelsea in Cup final is an example, then all of a sudden we revert back to…well it’s almost like he says keep the ball.

    it’s sickening to see such a fall from grace, even when it was Nasri, Cesc etc. Etc. we playing fast and beautiful football. Now we can’t even say that, we’re stagnant, boring, slow and seem to reply fully on the genius of some players pulling it out of the bag.

  39. Bufallo says:

    wenger doesnt even look that bothered or surprised to lose, maybe he knows he’s retiring, otherwise god help us……

  40. C says:

    Honestly, with Ozil we rip them to pieces but Iwobi can’t pass and we had nobody connecting in the final third to get Lacazette and Aubameyang chances. Our defense was shambolic and Cech doesn’t help out at all.

  41. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    Only PL side without an away point un 2018

    Look forward to another season of it. And if we beat Athletico and get to final and win that, prepare for another 2 seasons of it. Minimum.

  42. Colts says:

    Danny appears to have got his groove back.

  43. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    Honestly, with Ozil we rip them to pieces but Iwobi can’t pass and we had nobody connecting in the final third to get Lacazette and Aubameyang chances. Our defense was shambolic and Cech doesn’t help out at all.

    Said that earlier, we’d have been 3 up with ozil or ramsey on in first half. I think we’re well and truly given up on league and he’s all about europa which is sickening because if that fucks up we’ll risk no european football at all

  44. andy1886 says:

    Regardless of the EL outcome our performance in the league this season should be a sackable offence. We’re competing with Burnley for sixth place, and that’s just unacceptable. Hopefully Stan will hand over the reins to Josh, he may not be ideal but I do actually believe that he is far more likely to make the change we’ve needed for the last decade or so.

  45. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    Well, today did nothing but strengthen my Wenger out opinion.

    Even with the signings in January, we’ve yet to pull out a good performance.

    What they do in training is beyond me. How Mustafi can get picked for Germany is also, beyond me

  46. G4E says:

    The obligatory Away defeat ……….

    Maybe Arsene Wenger’s target is 7th not 6th in the League?

  47. consolsbob says:

    Just watched Thierry demonstrate how impossible their winning goal should have been. He did it very well but I remained baffled as to how we could be so poor. This is not rocket science.

  48. Bill says:


    “Honestly, with Ozil we rip them to pieces but Iwobi can’t pass and we had nobody connecting in the final third to get Lacazette and Aubameyang chances. Our defense was shambolic and Cech doesn’t help out at all”

    You must have been watching a lot of U-tube videos or a different team then the rest of us for the last 2 years. We are fighting for 6th place because we have played like this for much reason of this season with ozil in the line up.

  49. MesutsLeftFoot says:


    there was occasions in this particular match Ozil would have exploited.

    We play too slow for Ozil to have any affect most matches, even the best passers will struggle to find a killer pass when he eventually get’s the ball with 11 men in front of him.

    Defensive side of our team is, and has been the main issue.

    In 15 years, we’ve not signed a single physical typed CDM……Let that sink in. I don’t think i’ve seen a squad as devoid of flair as this in a long time though.

  50. Alex says:

    Ah, Bill, always so pinpoint in your football analysis! A problem? Blame Özil. The rest? What rest? Lol

  51. C says:


    I it seems that way but I’m not sure given Josh seems to be taking charge. Maybe we win the EL final and Arsene leaves having finally won a European competition.

  52. andy1886 says:

    I don’t think that Bill was blaming Ozil as such, it’s more to the point that the problem, and therefore the solution, isn’t the players, it’s the appalling coaching and direction that they are given. Give the exact same set of players to Klopp, Pochetino or Guardiola and I’d put everything I own on them performing far better than they do under the current regime.

  53. C says:

    I know he just came back from an injury but Maitland-Niles should of started at RB against the pacy Kenedy(another Chelsea loanee) because Chambers was pushing high but didnt have the pace to get back.

  54. Alex says:


    Knowing Bill’s eternal critics of Mesut, i have my doubts, Andy. 😉 But Bill is Bill? 😉

  55. Dalm says:

    OK – pants performance and no surprise there.

    Many of us were saying prioritise the EL over the league and maybe that’s what we did today.

    I think k put ramsay in there today and the dynamic changes – maybe that same with ozil .

    But ramsay is due an injury and oil wasn’t at the races last Thurs…

  56. Wavey says:

    Well wasn’t that fun.

    Another clear example why some actual coaching and analysis of previous games might help the players to develop their game. Mustafi gets beaten at the near post for the second league game running because he doesn’t even consider the possibility that an opposing player might be running in to beat him to the ball.

    For the second goal, the players were caught out by a simple long throw an completely put of position. Doesn’t anyone tell them to face up and pick up the players on any set play including throw-ins?

    With no play maker in the middle of the park there was very little for the forwards to work with. And before Bill goes on (yet again) about them not being able to do anything when playmakers are on the pitch, I am talking about what was lacking going forward for this specific game.

  57. Colts says:

    I wouldn’t like Benitez to be our next manager…

  58. Buckagh says:

    Wavey, Bread and butter defending would have prevented both Newcastle’s goals today.
    Athletico well capable of coming to the Emirates and getting a result

  59. C says:

    West Brom supporters in full voice at Old Trafford singing: Man City we won this match for you

  60. andy1886 says:


    That’s what you get when you rely on lazy zonal marking rather than go man to man which gives players responsibility and expects them to follow instruction. But then I guess if the manager refuses to accept responsibility why should the players not follow his example?

  61. Dukey says:

    So, Elneny plays and again we struggle with him in the side…

  62. Dukey says:

    Even Jon Jo shelvey is a better player than Elneny.

  63. Welsh Corgi Cardigan says:


    Really, weren’t they all pretty bad with defence exceptionally bad?

    Not sure if I think the whole house came tumbling down on account of Elneny.

  64. Wavey says:

    Just a quick reminder:

    UEFA Europa League (UEL) qualification
    In normal circumstances, three UEL places are given to English clubs who fulfil the following criteria:
    The fifth-placed team in the Premier League qualify for the group stage proper.
    The winners of the FA Cup qualify for the group stage proper.
    The EFL Cup winners qualify for the third qualifying round.
    Where these qualifications changes
    a) If the FA Cup winners finish in the top five of the Premier League, their UEL group stage place will go to the next-highest ranked team not qualified for UEFA competitions in the Premier League.
    b) If the EFL Cup winners finish in the top five of the Premier League (or top six if (a) happens), their UEL third qualifying round place will go to the next-highest ranked team not qualified for UEFA competitions in the Premier League.

    So if Burnley do jump us for the 6th spot and we get knocked out of the Europa League, we would go into the third qualifying round of Europa next season with 7th place. That depends on a top 5 team wining the FA Cup though. How funny would it be if Southampton won it? Are we going to fight for 6th place, or has Wenger decided to put all of his eggs in the Europa League basket this season? No European football at all next season would surely be the last straw for the owners?

  65. Bill says:

    I am not blaming Ozil for today or for our record this season. I was responding to the comment that suggested we would have had a different result if Ozil had been on the pitch today. In the last 2 years we have enough bad performances like today when he was on the pitch to land us in 5th place last year and in a bit of a dog fight to hold on to 6th place this season. We can’t know what might have happen, but suggesting that having Mesut on the pitch today would have improved our performance and changed the result goes against a strong body of evidence from the last 2 seasons.

  66. Bill says:

    Today is an example of the same issue that has caused us to lose 10 other league games this year and sit in 6th place. Poor defending and our tendency to get bogged down in a slow tempo tippy tappy pattern a ball possession without purpose. I agree that arsene deserves most of the blame especially with regard to the poor defending. However what I struggle to understand is how THR players can put together a run if better games and then suddenly fall back to the poor performances that have landed us in 6th. I am 100% certain that arsene did not change tactics or tell the players to morph back into tippy tappy mode. Once the players are on the pitch there is nothing other then themselves to stop them from playing more like they did in the first leg against CSKA.

  67. wilberforce says:

    “We had 70% of possession and were 1-0 up. You wonder how you can lose this game”

    mmm yes I do wonder why we lost Arsene? Nothing to do with the 45 goals we have conceded already (we conceded 26 the last time we won the EPL). Nothing to do with the fact we are going to finish in the lowest position since 94/95 season even though we were told we would be competing with Bayern and we are very close to winning major trophies again. Oh and we reward our most skillful but also fecking lazy and inconsistent player with 350k a week!!!!

  68. wilberforce says:

    It makes you wonder what kind of gutless mercenary Steve Bould is. I mean for F sake what kind of pride does the man have? We are going to break 50 goals conceded in a season. Yes 50!!! Try telling that to Keown, Adams, Winterburn and Dixon without getting kicked in the nuts and hung out to dry!!

  69. andy1886 says:


    “And yet again the lesson for AW from this game is that possession is meaningless if you don’t do anything with it. We’ve had 70%+ and looked mediocre at best. If he blathers on again about how we controlled the game he should be throttled.”

    “We had 70% of possession and were 1-0 up. You wonder how you can lose this game”

    Arsene, you are just so predictable Zzzzzz

  70. Bill says:

    I agree that Arsene overdid the rotation today. No way to know what could have happened but the idea that we would have had a better performance if we had played our best players is not backed by the evidence. For most of our league games this season we have had our best players on the pitch and in our 15 road games against teams not named Everton we have only managed to score 12 total goals. Our away league record in 2018 is 0W 0D 5L.

  71. Wavey says:


    How many of those games were Lacazette and Aubameyang both playing? I’m guessing none. Would he have played both of them if someone like Ozil was on the pitch? Not sure. The problem is that your evidence cannot demonstrate the same set of players.

  72. Bill says:


    This season we are on pace to have the lowest league finish, concede the most goals, collect the fewest points and have the worst goal differential of the 20+ year Wenger Era. We have papered over the cracks by scoring a lot of goals in few big wins but we have had a poor season on both ends of the pitch, especially in our away games.

  73. Bill says:

    We have only won 2 of our 16 away games this season. In the 2 games away games we won against Everton and Palace we scored 8 goals and conceded 4. In the other 14 away games we have drawn 4 and lost 10. If I have done the math correctly, in those 14 games we have scored only 8 goals and conceded 22.

  74. Dukey says:

    Elneny moonlighting as a top DM.!!

  75. Phil says:

    Yet again, Mustafi put the ball into a dangerous area when he headed their throw towards Monreal.
    If he deals with it properly, they don’t score.
    And ofcourse , he was beaten for their first as well.
    He is on fire to have more assists than OZil at this rate.

  76. HALF TIME LEMONS says:

    Our away form is appalling.
    Of 16 away games in EPL 2 have been 0-0, we have taken the lead in 8.
    Statistically for an AVERAGE team one would expect 5-2-1 W-D-L record after scoring first when away. So 17 points

    Our is 3-1-4 and gives us 10 points, so 7 points worse than average!!! The 4 loses from winning positions: Newcastle; Watford; Swansea; Bournemouth…. ’nuff said! Time for change!

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