It's time once again for another wonderful season of Premier League Football. Our beloved Magpies begin their campaign amidst a sea of uncertainty, unpredictability, and un-stars of last year. (un?) Fortunately, our first match will be against Arsenal, a team that has faced a fair share of trouble itself over a tumultuous off-season. A breakdown of the five looming questions after the jump.
1. How will Arsenal deal with the loss of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas?
As reported yesterday, Arsene Wenger has conceded into selling his two finest assets. We know that Wenger has said that Van Persie will be wearing the armband, and that it appears Fabregas will be wearing the Barcelona uniform by the end of the day. Nasri's absence will have a huge impact for the flow of the game as well as the style Newcastle will want to implement. Nasri is still on the active roster, but is feeling sick following a trip with the French National team. The lack of the two midfielders, combined with Newcastle's overwhelming strength in that area (specifically with Ben Arfa and Marveaux as the counterparts for Nasri/Fabregas) could bode well for the Magpies as they face Arsenal in a weakened state.
2. How will the Toon Army respond to all the hubbub going on upstairs?
This offseason has been, in a word, disappointing. With the loss of Nolan, the Barton fiasco, and the recent exodus of El Toro, the front office has been called everything from cheap to evil. Much of the Newcastle fanbase has become completely disillusioned with the people in charge of making important decisions, you know, a bit like the American population). They are tired of being lied to, betrayed, and treated like bottom lines instead of fans. Personally, I think it's bit of an over-reaction, but to each their own. You can bet the Geordies will be out en masse at St. James' Park, but will the chorus of boos be showering on the Gunners, or on Mike Ashley?
3. What formation will the Magpies run?
With the aforementioned departure of Jose Enrique Sanchez, the questions shouldn't be "who will we replace him with," but rather "how will we replace him?" Given our personnel, there is no reason why we couldn't move to a three back set, as I've advocated many a time. A three back set allows for two strikers to be paired with five midfielders, and we have five that will work nicely in Marveaux, Ben Arfa, Barton, Jonas, Smith, Cabaye, Tiote, RTaylor, Gosling... wait, we have more than five!! It'll be interesting to see what Pardew rolls onto the field, both in the front (will Ben Arfa and Marveaux play next to each other?) and the back (which combo of Tiote, Smith, Gosling, and Cabaye will be out there?).
4. Who will score?
This question may seem incredibly vague, but not a single combo of Ameobi, Ba, Ranger, Best, and Lovenkrands has exactly lit up the pre-season. The safe bet is that Ameobi and Ba will start in the front, which could be an interesting combo if the defensive mid controls the pace and the wingers can get in some interesting crosses. Combine that idea with Ben Arfa playing... wherever (provided he's healthy), and we could have a somewhat potent offense in spite of not having firepower in the 9 and 10 spots. That... or we could struggle to survive zilch-all draws in a Stoke City like fashion.
5. How well does Gervinho do?
With Nasri gone, there is a chance Gervinho, who was Newcastle's top target for much of the summer, could start on the wing, or perhaps even a bit closer to the middle (like a 4-2-2-2), as Jack Wilshere is nursing an injury. Many Newcastle fans were annoyed with Gervinho's "will he/won't he" act all summer, and that combined with his amazing hairline has made him quite the contemptible new addition to the Premier League. We at CHN would certainly love to see Gervinho come out, realize he should have come to St. James', and then immediately start losing form. Revenge is a dish best served with receding dreadlocks.
- Can this match possibly capture the magic of last year's incredible day?
- If Newcastle wins, will Arsene Winger finally wither away like the Wicked Witch?
- Will Alan Pardew manage to not get fired during the course of the match?
Newcastle United FC vs. Arsenal FC
Saturday, 13 August 2011
Positional Previews: Goalkeeper | Defenders | Midfielders | Forwards
Match Preview | Keep Your Enemies Closer | 5 Questions
SBN Arsenal Blog: The Short Fuse
Significant Offseason Stories:
Mehdi Abeid Arrives | Shane Ferguson Signs New Deal | Yohan Cabaye Arrives
Kevin Nolan Departs | Demba Ba Arrives | Sylvain Marveaux Arrives
Fabricio Coloccini Named Captain | Hatem Ben Arfa Injured | Joey Barton Told to Leave
Wayne Routledge Departs | Gabriel Obertan Arrives | Jose Enrique Departs