Our final match before the two week international break brings Arsenal to St. James’ Park with the Magpies looking to follow up their impressive 4-1 victory against Northampton with their first win in the Premier League in which we have been given a difficult set of opening fixtures. This fixture has proven a difficult one for us of late with our last win being in December 2005 when Nobby Solano scored the decisive goal in a match where Scott Parker put one of the best battling performances seen at SJP. It hasn’t all been plain sailing for the Gunners since we’ve been back in the top flight however with their last 3 games here being won by the odd goal in matches where we’ve made a good fist of it, and who can forget the 4-4 draw back in February 2011?
As alluded to before we come into this fixture on the back of two contrasting yet equally impressive performances; the 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in which we were well organised and solid albeit with an attacking threat when we did get possession. There was also the cup game in midweek where we showed some lovely combination play in the final third, despite us playing relatively weak opposition I think there was plenty to be positive about particularly the performance of Thauvin who with a goal and three assists you can’t really ask much more. Special mention must also go to Ayoze Perez and Siem de Jong who gave a good account of themselves and proved that we have players knocking on the door ready to grab a first team shirt should the opportunity present itself.
In terms of selection I think now is the right time to phase Obertan out of the team, he works hard and does offer good defensive cover but he lacks the decision making and cutting edge required of a winger playing for a team at this level. Hopefully Sissoko is fit again and we will be able to play him and Thauvin on the flanks for this one. Ayoze Perez will probably find himself on the bench for this one and he would be entitled to consider himself unfortunate, the lad played well last week and may well find himself a victim of the formation being adopted at the moment; for me his best position is buzzing around a main striker and given McClaren’s preference for a tight midfield three coupled with Ayoze being best suited centrally it is difficult to see a defined position for him in this team.
I fancy us to get something here, Arsenal have not had a great start to the season and a lot of their better players haven’t got going yet; Sanchez in particular seems to be suffering from a hangover after Chile’s Copa America success. There are some bright signs from our early season performances and the new players all look as though they have something to bring to the table.