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Newcastle vs. Arsenal - Preview: Time to (indirectly) mess with the Champions League

Third straight season-changing game on Newcastle’s plate

Arsenal v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

It couldn’t be against Liverpool. It couldn’t be against Manchester City. It must be against Arsenal then, right? The Magpies will be hosting Mikel Arteta’s lads (or whatever is left of them) next Monday at St James’ Park for the home-turf finale of the 2022 campaign and the second Monday Night Football of Newcastle’s season.

With Arsenal coming off an unforgettable North London Derby in which they dropped three points and absorbed three hard-to-stomach goals, the Gunners will come to Tyneside full of anger and looking to drop the hammer on United to nearly seal their presence in the Champions League next season.

The Men in Black and White will definitely try to leave St James Park for the last time in the 2021-22 down-and-up campaign with a good taste, as this marks the season’s finale for the Magpies in their own stadium before visiting Burnley next weekend. Phenomenal chance for the Toon to measure themselves against a good-not-great side with European aspirations to see where the team is at ending this season, even though Newcastle is not playing for a thing these days so it’ll be hard to assess the lads that get to play.

What’s poppin’

I had legit never heard or read more stuff about a North London Derby in my lifetime. Even the very own Martin Keown went on to say in this week’s BBC MotD that this must have been the biggest NLD in “living memory”. Jesus Christ. I don’t know about that, but for all of the hype, the trouncing of Arsenal at the hands of Tottenham was definitely a sound one. It is not that it mattered a thing because it went for nothing as all the Spurs did was cut their distance in the table from four to just one point with a couple of games to go, leaving Arsenal right where they were at the fourth spot and into next season’s Champions League.

Anyway, that game was a bona fide blowout consummated in (virtually) just one-half of play. Arsenal got mad, Rob Holding was in the locker room just 33 minutes into the match, the Spurs did basically everything they wanted, and the Gunners looked discombobulated and then some all game long. Here’s hoping they put on a replay on Monday.

Obviously, a defeat against Tottenham surely was in the realm of possibilities. Tottenham, again, are fighting with Arsenal for that last place to qualify for the top European competition—in other words: Tottenham are not a bunch of minnows led by an incompetent manager. Arsenal, at least these days, might be halfway through those definitions, though. No offense, but injuries alone have left the Londoners very bare-bones all around the pitch with Gabriel Magalhaes, Thomas Partey, and Kieran Tierney all suffering knocks and missing ample time, and the likes of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexander Lacazette either leaving or wildly underperforming.

Even if you want to see all of that as a big enough mess to consider this a great opportunity for Newcastle to snatch one or three points, you might want to rethink that. Arsenal had won their prior four games to that against Tottenham scoring at least two goals in all of those matches while only once conceding more than one. No joke, even more considering the level of the competition they have faced.

It is funny, though, to look at that four-game winning streak and to see the similarities with the one Newcastle also put together in a similar month-long timespan winning four of their five games in April while only allowing one goal to the opposition in those victories and losing by a measly goal against Liverpool to close April. Then, on the visit to the Etihad, Manchester City hammered the Magpies with a 5-0, putting the second L in a row on Newcastle’s results list. Arsenal have lost one after winning four, which means they are about to lose the second game in a row to perfectly match United’s resume, amirite?

Newcastle played (Woolwich) Arsenal for the first time in 1893 (!) and draw 2-2 in a League Division Two game. Jeez. The all-time balance is 67-83 in favor of Arsenal with 38 draws on top of that. The problem for the Magpies, though, is that recent clashes have not been very good for the Toon. Newcastle lost eight games in a row to Arsenal after beating the Gunners for the last time in Apr. 2018. Before that? Another massive run of 10 straight losses spanning all the way back to Mar. 2012. Oh, lord.

Since the start of April, Arsenal has lost games against Crystal Palace, Brighton, and Southampton. The former two are currently above Newcastle in the table—though only four and one point ahead—while Southampton is in one position and three points behind the Toon. What I’m saying is that it’s not that mid-table teams haven’t been able to crack Arteta’s code. It wouldn’t be surprising to find Newcastle saluting the crowd after the final whistle with three more points in their bag, let alone one.

Newcastle already welcomed back two of their best performers this season after long-time injuries against Manchester City: Callum Wilson and Kieran Trippier. Both of them are expected to start this game. Those are the good news. The bad ones are similar for the two sides clashing on Monday: both teams will miss a few of their important players in a single line of the field. Arsenal will be without defenders Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, and Gabriel Magalhaes. Newcastle will miss midfielders Ryan Fraser, Jonjo Shelvey, and Joe Willock.

While the Magpies have enough to still deploy a midfield three comprised of Joelinton, Longstaff, and Bruno (as they did against City a week ago), Arsenal will need to put together a line of four defenders that will be a little bit improvised and definitely used to play together—Nuno Tavares on the left, Tomiyasu moved to CB along with Ben White, and Cedric Soares on the right flank.

As has been the case since the game against Liverpool, Newcastle is just playing games for fun these days after securing their presence in the Premier League next season. The worst-case scenario is losing four straight against Liverpool, Man. City, Arsenal, and Burnley and maybe finish close to the relegation places but definitely outside of the bottom three. Nothing any member of the Toon Army would be incredibly upset about after the nervy season they’re about to wrap up.

Arsenal, on the other hand, is still playing for very serious stuff. Finishing fourth or five in the league, out of context, is just not that important. Bake into that the fact that the fourth team qualifies for the Champions League while the fifth drops to the Europa League and all of a sudden things look entirely different—not to mention what went down at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last Thursday and how badly the Gunners need to bounce back with a victory next Monday.

For a home finale, this feels like a win-win-win game. Lose, and you still have your home supporters present to promise a much better, Europe-bound campaign next year. Draw, and inch closer to a top-10 finish. Win, and spend the night celebrating. Come on you Magpies!

Who’s rockin’

The Guardian’s guess at the Starting XIs from the Geordie Lads and the Gunners.

Lineup Notes

  • Not Available: Jonjo Shelvey (calf), Joe Willock (knee), and Federico Fernandez (Achilles). Not in the 25-man squad: Ciaran Clark, Isaac Hayden, and Jamal Lewis.
  • The Guardian is assuming Fabian Schär will be fit enough to play come Monday. So much so, that the lads are even viewing him as one of the starting center-backs along with Dan Burn. We’ll see how that goes, but I’m not convinced it ends happening with Newcastle playing for nothing these days and a bona fide captain in the squad in Jamaal Lascelles. I’d honestly go with a Lascelles-Burn pairing no matter what given the ground-level stakes of this game, and the fact that Lascelles might be playing his last game at St James’ Park.
  • You bet Emil Krafth is not starting at right-back. It will be Kieran Trippier on the right, and Matt Targett on the left. Simple as that.
  • Skipping the midfield because it will be the same as with Trippier’s case, Callum Wilson will start at the front of the lineup. That’s not confirmed but it’s my best guess given how great he looked in his minutes against City and the combinations he put together with Allan Saint-Maximin, much better than those Chris Wood was—or attempted to be—part of.
  • Back to the midfield and the wings, and starting with the latter, ASM and Miguel Almirón surely look the part to start on Monday. That said, though, Eddie Howe has made clear how he’d like to make some rotations to check on some players that are still seemingly fighting for a place on the roster next season. The question, though, is whether ASM and Miggy are locked into that squad or not. I’d err on the negative side for an answer. I think both lads might get moved away from Tyneside if the proper offers arrive in time. Of course, those two players are fundamental in comparison to the likes of Fraser, Gayle, or Murphy, so any of those latter three could find their way to the field.
  • With Jonjo and Willock out for the season and Joelinton and Bruno most probably locked into one more start against a top-tier side on Monday, we’ll see who gets the third midfield-position start. Sean Longstaff is still negotiating an extension with the Magpies and Howe might want to test him once more to see if what he’s asking for is worth ponying up or not. Any other player getting the call would probably mean a change of system, moving Joelinton to the left-wing, or doing something entirely different and unexpected.

When and Where’s flowin’

  • Date: Monday, May 16
  • Time: 3:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm UK
  • Location: St James’ Park, Newcastle
  • TV: SKY GO Extra, Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Ultra HD, Sky Sports Premier League, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Newcastle (UK), UNIVERSO, UNIVERSO NOW, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo, USA Network (USA), DAZN (Canada)

For all your international watching needs, check

How’s it goin’

Coming Home, Crystal Ball: Newcastle 1 - 1 Arsenal

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Howay the Lads!