Newcastle Preview: Singing In Key or Badly Out Of Toon?

The chance to revisit the scene of one of last season’s crimes and an opportunity for something a little different. Whether Unai Emery views it similarly is the key.

In the past, back-to-back victories would be the opportunity to keep the same XI. Maybe that old football wisdom holds true today, but I don’t think so. We’ve got away with it to some extent, which isn’t denigrating the overall performance, just the wide open spaces in midfield. Hollywood reports John Ford is scoping Arsenal games for a remake of ‘How The West Was Won’.

Hopefully, he’ll be sadly disappointed with the first start of Lucas Torreira. The Uruguayan’s reputation is increasing every time he doesn’t play from the start; today might be the occasion where he emerges from that mist and becomes the defensive midfielder we’ve been beseeching the manager – whoever it was – to play.

To be fair to me, that isn’t just wishful thinking or whinging on my part. Unai Emery agrees:

“[Arsenal] need to improve on the pitch with our personality and our ideas. We want to do better than the last match in Cardiff.

“We want the same result but we can be better on the pitch.”

There’s no sugar-coating from the boss; “we can do better on the pitch” is the truth. The players are great going forward but need to tighten up on the defensive side. Asking Hector Bellerin to bomb forward is all well and good, but you can’t expect him to cover right-back at the same time.

We haven’t got the balance between defence and attack right, and if we’re honest, we’re some way off finding it. Maybe the dozen or so players who stayed behind during the international break got the message. Will the others pick up on it?


Newcastle, as with the start of last season, are in a bad way. Benitez is fortunate that Mike Ashley is hanging around like a bad smell to take supporters ire; I’m not sure whether the Gallowgate is that impressed with him but from what I’ve read, the owner is the one bearing the brunt of dissent.

I’m sure, however, the former Liverpool boss eyes the gaps and believes his players can exploit them this afternoon. Whether his players are as confident is another matter. The one concern I have is that we just don’t defend well. Cardiff hadn’t scored before they faced us; allow Arsenal to right that record. Newcastle have three goals and could easily double that total if they have a centre-forward who knows where the goal is. Big if.

The focus is abnormally on Mesut Özil with the relationship between Emery and the player being blown out of proportion. It’s a boss-employee gig; not friends, but getting on so long as the German does as he’s told.  We expect more from him, there’s no secret Unai does as well, so there’s no issue with that.

Previously, we didn’t wonder about Thursday night’s team. It was youngsters with fringe players; Unai isn’t going down that route:

“I have proven with my experience to know the best way to manage the players.

“My idea isn’t to change 11 players between one competition and the next competition.”

No-one expected 11 to drop out; we don’t have a proven goalscorer to take over from PEA unless you rest Lacazette today. Which is possible; Emery said he will tailor his XI to the opposition. However, I’d expect Leno, one of the young central defenders, Lichtsteiner, to come in. Perhaps Welbeck, but half the side which features today will play Thursday.

…Plus Eleven

Which brings us in a no way contrived manner to today’s team.

Not many changes to the Cardiff game. It must be tempting for Emery to move to a 4-5-1 when the Barcodes have the ball before springing into the 2-0-9 attacking formation he prefers. If Torreira is to start, the one to make way will be Guendouzi. Nothing the 19-year-old has done is wrong, and in many respects, it is a harsh decision. However, the good of the team, etc.

Some will argue Xhaka is the one who should make way. It’s a fair point but the Swiss is improving his form with a key reason being the absence of someone to do the defensive work. We saw with Switzerland, put a defensive midfielder alongside him and Xhaka is a different player.

Which leaves the XI:

Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Özil, Aubameyang; Lacazette

Ramsey may differ in his view but the balance of the side is more natural with Mkhitaryan on the flanks. The reservation is that the Welshman provides better cover for Bellerin but it is a low bar in judging that.

We shall see. You could fit Ramsey in with Özil on the left if Lacazette doesn’t play. Or start, anyway. Three points is all we ask for, no matter which XI plays.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.


41 thoughts on “Newcastle Preview: Singing In Key or Badly Out Of Toon?

  1. Good afternoon from a very sunny and warm Narbonne.

    As well as he has played ( Guendozi) he can’t in no way be deemed a “nailed on ” starter each week. He would not start for City, Liverpool, Man U.

  2. I wonder if Emery will hold back Torreira from starting as a result of the knock. He was in training but I don’t understand the reasons he didn’t start v Cardiff, so I wouldn’t be sure he starts v Newcastle.

    I expect this to be trickier than Cardiff. But hopefully the side is growing and integrating the new strategies and can put in a better performance than the last two and also get a second away win.

  3. Not too sure the starting line-up does though.

    Cech, Bellerín, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Özil, Aubameyang, Lacazette.

    VV narrow.

  4. I’m with you YW. Might as well just hoof it downfield instead of making 3 dangerous passes and then hoofing it sideways for a corner kick!!!

  5. YW,

    The other thing is that with Cech’s slow distribution either throwing or kicking it allows Newcastle to get back which doesn’t allow for say Xhaka or Ozil to play a quick ball throw the lines or over the top to Lacazette and Aubameyang to use their pace and quickness to get beyond the Newcastle defense.

  6. Torreira reminds me of Alexis Sanchez with his low centre of gravity and sharp bursts of energy to get or retrieve the ball. Hopefully a better temperament.

  7. felt that Auba did look a bit in-effective out there, but he still could have bagged two goals if he was hot. Ozil put him thru early on and then Laca hit him again and he had a great look. We’ve been sayin for a while now Torreira has to start, he provides something ‘different’ that we have needed i think. Tiny, low center of gravity, aggressive. The way he is buzzing and snapping at people reminds me of a more defensive minded Cazorla.

    Mustafi looks out of sorts and should get benched no? Sokratis must be wondering what he got himself into having to cover for the chuckle bro multiple times a game

  8. The second half was easier than the score suggests. More ruthlessness would have been useful. But all in all, a good away result.

  9. Was impressed today. I thought we played well throughout. Lacklustre in first half but this is a Newcastle team who pushed Chelsea and City well.

  10. I spoke to my father in France this afternoon and he says there is a lot of chatter about Nicolas Pepe being a target for arsenal in January.

    As a follower of French football, he’d be interesting yo watch. A bit like Vieira and Diaby in the sense of his legs seem inexplicably longer than they should be but lightening pace and a good finisher.

    Felt all that was missing today was wingers. I feel for Auba being so far out on left. When he drifted in central thought he was better and was surprised he took him off.

    Torriera though….really seemed to speed up our play when he came on

  11. Very decent result even if it would have been nice to keep a clean sheet.

    There’s a long way to go but I think we’re seeing a little progress.

    I’m sure we’ll still have a horror or two somewhere along the line but so far so good.

  12. MesutsLeftFoot,

    Torriera is exactly the player we have been missing: defensively strong and always wanting to tackle and win the ball back coupled with his ability on the ball and quick thinking….for comparisions sake, he reminds me so much of Santi but steonger defensively.

    Ozil had a good game too, he didn’t have loads of touches being pushed outwide but when he was on the ball, he was dictating and effective. I really do want to see what a midfield of Torriera/Ozil/Xhaka or Guendouzi looks like because I think that would be brilliant.

    Aubameyang did seem to drift in more and looked much more effective in the left channels.

  13. We really need a winger and a new #10. PEA on the left is not working, he almost scored but he is better as a finisher at the see end of moves rather than being involved in the build-up play.

    Ramsey slowed the game down and aside the goal, Õzil had a quite average performance.
    Sokratis seemed much better today and Torreira’s introduction was responsible for our increased possession and dominance in the 2nd half of the game.

    It might be a tactical tweak, using Guendouzi to start the game buzzing all over the pitch and ending the game with Torreira’s calming influence. It might have ended 5-1 if we were more clinical.

  14. lari03,

    Totally agree. We’re linked with Pepe in France who’s a speediest. But if like us to potentially go all out for a Prem league winger who knows the league. Traore at wolves or Zaha. Would cost 40 plus million but I think today proves we need ozil centrally and a winger out on right.

Comments are closed.