By 1970’s Gooner
There has been a lot of euphoric sentiment about Arsenal this past few days and justifiably so as that win over Aston Villa epitomized what has been so good this season as compared to last.
The scintillating performance of the first and the fighting spirit of the second half have further instilled confidence in players and fans alike that this team can go all the way.
Amidst all this lies the visit to St James’s Park to face a Newcastle side who have been shipping goals in by the bucketful recently; three away at Blackburn and another three at home against Liverpool the week before.
However this fixture against Arsenal has the potential of turning into a banana skin and there are three reasons for this.
1. “The backlash effect”
The Newcastle players are likely to rally round so as to answer criticism that there’s no revolt from within their ranks.
There has been a lot of criticism of Allardyce from fans and if you believe the papers from some of the players. Whether this is true or not is another matter.
What will matter however is that, as has often been noticed with teams that are under pressure, the players rally round.
They rally round each other and round their manager. They want to prove to every fan watching on the terraces or in their sitting rooms in front of the telly that they are up to it.
That they can turn things round. That they are the players who will get the club out of this mess.
And don't forget there’s the January transfer window looming close where their own heads might be on the block.
2. “The Bolton effect”
"When under pressure go back to what you do best especially if it worked before under similar circumstances. Arsenal are back in town after all".
I don’t believe Big Sam when he says that this Newcastle side cannot adopt the same tactics as Bolton used to do so successfully against Arsenal in the past.
Sam Allardyce will adopt Bolton “in your face” type of tactics and he has the players to do it. Players like Viduka and Smith in attack and Barton and Butt in midfield.
He will have seen how Aston Villa pinned the Gunners in their own half in the second period last Saturday and he will want to do the same. By pressing higher up the field and sticking close, intimidating players and in your face type of marking.
3. “The injury effect”
Arsenal are missing influential midfield and forward players. This did not prove to be a significant problem up to now as the strength in depth available to Wenger proved to be just that.
The players in the current squad are so flexible and technically skilled that they can play in more than one position. Hleb for example has played on the wing, as a support forward to Adebayor and as a central midfielder. Rosicky has done the same.
But now the injury list is so long even this dearth of options and combinations is beginning to run out for Wenger. In attack we have Van Persie missing. In midfield we have Fabregas, Flamini, Hleb and Diaby out.
It’s not as though there are no available players to fill in. Gilberto, Diara and Denilson will be available for the midfield positions and Eduardo or even Bendtner or Rosicky can play in attack.
However it is the quality and creativeness that Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb used to bring that will be missed. And it is this attribute that usually unlocks defences and tight marking.
It was evidently absent the last time that these three players were missing. Against Wigan Arsenal struggled for 80 minutes to find a way to goal and it was not until Gallas stepped up and took matters into his own hands that victory was achieved.
Maybe we will need another inspirational moment from an unlikely source again tonight.