Newcastle at home, it brings back memories. The corresponding match last season was my maiden journey to the home of football (or more accurately, a couple of streets away from the real home of football – Highbury). Those who have went with me to other trips that I’ve made to other places might get livid with me for saying this, but that visit to Arsenal and Emirates Stadium was by far the best the experience of my life.
That we won the game last season made the trip all the sweeter. Thomas Vermaelen’s last minute goal sent the stadium and probably the entire Goonerworld into wild delirium. A last minute winning goal is always one to cherish. The crowd was boisterous and it came on the back of a winning period in our league campaign last season. Newcastle were on the back of a good campaign themselves last season, the same cannot be said of their results this season.
While they gave a very good account of themselves in their last game, at Old Trafford, they are still languishing in 15th place in the league table. They have not won a single game away from St James Park, which includes a loss to Southampton as well. It’s fair to say that they struggle on the road. The absence of Anita, Cabaye, Gutierrez and scorer of the goal last season in Ben Arfa, would not help their cause considerably for this game. They might be able to draw some confidence on the way they performed on Wednesday but could just as well feel deflated after losing despite taking the lead 3 times.
Compared to us, it looks like the footballing gods are on our side for a change. According to the latest injury update, as soon as next week, we could have the entire playing squad (except goal keeper) fit and available. Stranger things have never happened in football. After the forced rest due to the postponement of the West Ham game, I don’t think the manager will be looking to rest players, even though we have another game on Tuesday away to Southampton. Despite the circumstances mentioned above surrounding Newcastle, they should not be underestimated and we should definitely field our strongest side.
Olivier Giroud looks fit again and will come back into the team. Whether he goes straight back to the starting line-up, is another matter. I’m sure Arsene Wenger is adversed to changing a formation that has garnered us 3 wins in as many league matches. I’m still hopeful that the Frenchman will feature and that means a return to the right side for Theo Walcott. I still think that the wide right forward role is the one best suited to him but it is looking likelier for Walcott to remain there. Unless one of the wide players drop out prior to the start of the game.
We are heading into a crucial period of the season (and the all important January transfer window) and we need to keep our momentum going. This is the period for leaders of the team to come to the fore and actually lead the team. If not by their form, then at least by form of verbal encouragement and guidance. Whilst we are on our best run of results in the season thus far, we cannot start slacking off. The moment complacency creeps in again, we can forget about improving on our results of last season. Mikel Arteta, Vermaelen and even Jack Wilshere (despite his young age) are the ones I’m looking to lead the team.
Even though it’s only one round of fixture that we’ve missed, it surely felt longer. After 3 away games in cup and league matches, it feels good to see us play at home once again. The atmosphere at the Grove might not have been the most positive in recent times and perhaps the team felt liberated a little, by playing away. It could also do with the strength of the opposition that we’ve faced. That said, a team that doesn’t take advantage of playing at home, will not have any chance of challenging for anything in any season. “We want our Arsenal back” surely includes “we want our home fortress back”.
Up The Arsenal.