Well, the doom-o-meter was certainly off the charts after the Fulham game now. A dismal performance and a first loss of the season, to Fulham of all teams, a hated Manchester United player arriving as the experienced Premier League signing Wenger talked about in pre-season, with no other signings on the horizon. It’s certainly looking a bit bleak. The Twente result was a good one, and it’s nice to have Cesc back, but it doesn’t cover over the deficiencies of a squad that is unbelievably thin and seemingly incapable of challenging for anything this season as it is, with the man in charge seemingly unwilling to take any decisive action to correct it. Wenger still talks about the players returning from injury providing extra strength, but if you look at it Diaby and Rosicky are the only players missing, and they will never string a run of games together so it’s not worth counting them as players who will come back and make a big difference, and with our striking options as they are at the moment Eduardo’s presence isn’t greatly missed. The squad we have now is it. No cover at full backs, no quality cover in midfield, and a starting eleven that is hardly firing on all cylinders. The transfer window closes tomorrow. If no one of any note comes in, then serious questions have to be asked of the manager.
Reading that, I’ve sunk into the standard habit of overreacting when we lose a game and using the result/performance as an excuse to list everything that’s wrong with the club. United had lost games to the might of West Ham, Bolton and Manchester City before 2008 began last season and didn’t win in their first three games, while we won nine of our first ten league games. Did us a lot of good in the end didn’t it? It’s not how we start the season, it’s how we finish it off. However, it’s the performances in the first four games that are a worry, we’re yet to look good playing as a team, a style that has become our trademark in previous seasons. More performances like we saw on Saturday and we could find ourselves out of the title race as quickly as we were the season before last. We need to get out of the blocks this season, starting with a good result and performance against a Newcastle side who managed to hold the current English and European Champions to a draw away from home.
In the league under Wenger we’ve beaten Newcastle twelve times, drawn eight times and lost four times. Since losing to them at home in 2002, we’ve beaten them every time in the six seasons since apart from a draw in 2006. Adebayor scored against Newcastle four times in three games last season, and we could do with some of that form returning with Ade yet to find his scoring ways.
Silvestre, Diaby and Rosicky are all scheduled to return mid-September. After this game there’s a two week break, so hopefully in that time they can get to full fitness. Other than that it’s the same team that played against Twente, but with Adebayor and Toure probably coming back into the team.
Subs: Fabianski, Djourou, Song, Eboue, Ramsey, Vela, Bendtner.
Newcastle don’t have many fit players so their first team is pretty much set. Martins, Ameobi and Viduka are all injured so Owen will be up front on his own, with Duff, Gutierrez and N’Zogbia floating around behind him. Having handed in a transfer request, Milner probably won’t be involved.