Champions League qualification day has arrived. This season can finally be consigned to the history books and hopefully we can leave it with a top 4 finish. Not a great year, but it could have been so much worse.
The day has been spiced up with the news Mike Ashley has put up around a million pounds in bonus is Newcastle win today, it’s not for the players, it’s for the backroom staff… which apparently has the Newcastle players totally motivated.
… yeah right. Footballers play for themselves. Not the tea lady. I very much doubt they care and I very much doubt this is anything other than a PR tactic to shift the focus away from the dopey comments Pardew made in the week. I was told by a third party that the Arsenal staff are on Champions League bonuses as well, so it doesn’t really make too much difference. I suspect our players and their pay… or futures are affected by our position today.
Giroud will find himself back in contention, but after the good form of Lukas and Theo during the week, you wonder if it’ll be bench time for him? Today is about goals and getting them early so we don’t have to panic for the whole game. I’ve no doubt we’ll go a goal or two down. It’s written in the stars. However, I am reasonably confident we can so the business today.
Newcastle aren’t a good side this year. Something has clearly gone wrong for Pardew so I have no reason to suspect he’ll be able to turn it on all guns blazing when tenth place is up for grabs. The only way we’re losing today is if the players let nerves take hold.
I’m hoping that doesn’t happen and that we take it to 12 wins in 16 games. A great home stretch run and just enough to allow Wenger his last chances at sorting the squad.
Team line ups will be the standard back four I’d imagine… consistency in that area there has seen us quite the force at the back over the last few games. Then in midfield, I’m expecting Jack, Rosicky and Rambo… followed by a front trio of Theo, Cazorla… and maybe Giroud. I can’t work out if I want a slightly rusty Giroud in the side for such a tight game?
Whatever the line up, we need to turn up the urgency levels early on. We need to press as a team and play the patient game if we have to. Newcastle have conceded 30 goals at home (we’ve conceded 37 in total, our best in about 7 years I think). Point is, we’re not trying to break a mid nineties Milan team down here… this isn’t far away from picking open a Wigan defence.
So, here we are… it’s time to talk Arsenal turkey until 1600. Then it’s an horrible two hours of roller-coaster football. Enjoy people!