Bonjour mes amis and welcome to the 11th week of 2012 where The Arsenal will be looking to continue an impressive run of league form against our cousins from the north, this week from that little village through which The Tyne flows.
They’re the kind of cousins which you really wish weren’t related to you in any way and that you have to put up with a couple of times of year at gatherings, and you would give a ha’penny toss if these gatherings were to cease all together.
My dislike for these cousins is increased further when they bring Alan Pardew to the party, who must be the most inglorious manager the south has ever produced.
Moving onto team news and it’s all quite positive for a change, Arsene Wenger stated in his press conference that there were no further injuries from Tuesday night’s sterling performance and Andre Santos could well be in line for a return to action very soon.
Many have slated his defensive abilities but I’m convinced these slatings are not only unnecessary but are based on little evidence.
With Kieran Gibbs and Santos and fighting it out for their position on the team sheet I’m certain that we two high quality fullbacks capable of doing a good job both offensively and defensively.
Yossi Benayoun was scheduled to train on Sunday so his inclusion is thus far uncertain, but I’m hoping he will be involved, his experience, tenacity and composure are always welcome additions to the squad in my eyes.
Abou Diaby played 28 minutes against Liverpool so contractually he must sit out injured for the next month, and Wilsher is progressing well according to all medical reports.
I just hope that this lengthy layoff doesn’t lead to the kind of repeat injuries that Diaby has been subjected to, Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta are both fit as well and will give us much needed depth in the middle of the park.
Our recent run of league form has really catapulted us back into the fray after we were in danger of being given a periphery role in the fight for the Champions League places.
A loss to Spurs and a few different results could have seen us slip to 13 points behind those at White Hart Lane, which is a taller order than Eric Pickles puts in at his local chippy.
Winning on Monday night would place us a solitary point behind the side from N17, and as they still haven’t managed to clear their throat I can see them choking even more as the week progress. Their capitulation would be almost more enjoyable than that time they ate some bad lasagne.
Newcastle aren’t quite in the form they hope to be, having picked up just two wins in their last seven games in all competitions, including a loss to Brighton in the cup.
Yet as Wenger testified, their acquisitions in the transfer windows have been most astute (Ba + Cisse + Cabaye + Ben Arfa = £17m), and it would be unpardonable folly to underestimate them.
With this experienced Arsenal side I’m sure such an immature mindset will not be allowed to sink in.
My team selection would be thus:
Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Song, Arteta, Rosicky, The Ox, Walcott, Van Persie.
Theo Walcott has been his usual hot and cold self recently, averaging a lukewarm temperature that everyone seems to find a little annoying, yet as long as his on field attitude doesn’t flirt with the tepid I’d like to see him start.
Hopefully Gervinho can come off the bench provide some firepower in the latter stages of the game if needed.
If he can catch the floodlights on his sweaty forehead just right he could have a blinding impact on the opposition, something for Arsene to think about.
Finally a brief word on all the contract talks headlining various media outlets; Tomas Rosicky and Walcott are both said to be close to agreeing new deals, Lukas Podolski and Wenger are being equally and sensibly tight lipped.
Rosicky has been phenomenal of late yet a contract extension will be based on more than just the last few games, and I am delighted that Wenger seems to be breaking his discrimination against the over 30s.
I think it’s obvious that Walcott is a player that we need to keep, regardless of how indifferent his form can be. You only need to listen to Robin Van Persie talk about him and you can see how important he is for the team, both on and off the ball.
Even Lionel Messi talks about how defenders fear his pace and agility, and I can’t see us letting that go, rightfully so.
Podolski is a great player (regardless of what Bayern Munich fans say) and if he ends up coming then happy days, he’s the kind of player we need for the kind of price we like to pay, wages of £100,000 a week is high which perhaps indicates a change of wage policy? More on that another time.
I’ll be back with player ratings after the game so be sure to check them out, until then, peace.
Halls_dja on twitter, follow for views and news if you fancy. Cheers