Happy new year and all that, it was great to celebrate with some nice food and drink but I am glad to move on and get back to the football once again. After an Özil inspired victory against AFC Bournemouth during our last outing, we welcome Newcastle United to north London.
Steve McClaren has spoken about the challenges that his side face this afternoon.
“It is about collective organization and discipline – and a certain amount of aggression will be required"
It made me think back to the game at St James' Park earlier this season. There was plenty of aggression on show that day, the Geordies picking up a red card, 6 yellows and a total of 15 fouls. For context we picked up one yellow card, no reds and a total of 8 fouls during the 90 minutes, nearly half the amount.
I remember a number of bad challenges that day and I suspect that Newcastle will be at it once more, especially away from home. Mesut Özil may well be targeted for some rough treatment, especially if Stevche McClarench has been watching the Southampton match against us.
You have to imagine that Mesut will have to deal with more and more attention both on and off the pitch given his stupendous form. The good news however is that Mesut Özil is no ordinary footballer, is he? He is the master of finding space where there seems to be very little. Imagine how tough it would be to mark a player like that. You can be next to him one moment, watching the ball then you turn around and Özil is on the opposite side of the pitch in a neat little pocket of space that didn't even exist only a moment or so before. He is not a player who takes a lot of touches of the ball at once, instead preferring to borrow the ball for a second and give it to a better placed player at the right time as opposed to the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Jack Wilshere who would rather force their opponents into making tackles.
As we know, Arsène made a few necessary changes before the AFC Bournemouth game, the players looked way off the pace against Southampton a few days earlier. Those changes worked well and we went on to grab all three points. I do wonder if any of those changes will force Arsène's hand when it comes to today's line up.
Gabriel scored his first Arsenal goal and defended very well throughout the game. He had come into the side to give Laurent Koscielny a breather but maybe it is a good chance for Per Mertesacker to get a rest of his own. Calum Chambers came into the side and performed pretty well but will it be enough to keep Mathieu Flamini from returning to the starting line up?
I think the most interesting decision is what happens in the attacking end of the pitch. Oliver Giroud and Theo Walcott have played pretty much every game in the last few weeks so I wonder if Arsène is considering resting one of them for Joel Campbell and/or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arsène may want to push them for one more game given that our next fixture is a cup match where rotation is more than likely going to take place.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
I think it will be a choice between Giroud and Oxlade-Chamberlain, the former is first choice while the latter is as fresh as a daisy so we will see which way the manager decides. I think Arsene would love to keep Walcott on the pitch with Özil at the moment. They are both working very well together, even if Theo has missed a lot of chances in or last game. The fact that Özil is creating so much for Theo will be pleasing for the manager.
Our fixture list looks a bit naughty from here on in.
Stoke City (a)
Leicester City (h)
Manchester United (a)
Swansea City (h)
Tottenham Hotspurs (a)
Those are our fixtures until the beginning of March so it is safe to assume that we just may not win them all *ahem* if that is the case then we have to make sure we do not drop points in the games we really ought to win, that ladies and gentlemen includes Newcastle United this afternoon.
Newcastle United as ever are ridiculously inconsistent. Their last two wins in 5 games have been against Liverpool and Tottenham, the problem is they have only picked up one other point against Aston Villa the rest were defeats. They continue to raise their game against top clubs and wilt against everyone else.
Let us hope we can start 2016 as we ended 2015, with a home victory.