What: English Premier League
Who: Newcastle United vs Arsenal
When: Sunday 19th May, 2013, at 16:00 UK Time
Where: St. James’ Park, Newcastle, England
Alan Pardew Does Care if Arsenal Win 4-0
Alan Pardew will have had the white half of North London sweating with his comments after his side secured their top flight status with a victory over Queens Park Rangers last weekend. Pardew’s suggestion that he would not care if his team lost 4-0 to Arsenal did not go down well, and prompted the manager’s clarification that he was of course, only joking.
What Pardew was getting at with his comments was that his team can now play without the pressure of knowing they are in a relegation scrap. He described it as a noose around the neck that the club had been playing with before. He will hope that means Newcastle fans see the best of their team on against Arsenal in a season which has ultimately been a disappointment.
Newcastle will also be looking to say a fond goodbye to Steve Harper, who is retiring this summer after 20 years of loyal and dignified service. It seemed fitting that Rob Elliot was sent off last week against QPR, meaning Harper gets a final run out in front of the home fans at St. James’ Park. He played in that famous game in 2011 when the Gunners led 4-0 and surrendered their lead. Arsenal will hope he doesn’t give the Newcastle faithful something to remember him by.
D-day For Arsenal’s Champions League Fate
For the last 15 years Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League; but this is the third time in the last 16 years that they have gone into the final day of the season grappling with their neighbours Tottenham for the final top four spot. In 2006, they were the beneficiaries of West Ham’s generosity, as they beat Tottenham at home. Last year, both thought they had qualified, Arsenal finishing a point ahead in third after beating West Brom, only for Chelsea to improbably snatch Champions League football from Spurs. Arsenal’s fierce neighbours will be hoping it is third time lucky.
Before the 4-1 win over Wigan Athletic that meant Arsenal kept the top four spot in their own hands, Arsene Wenger warned the Latics that they had been playing with fire by coming so close to relegation year after year. There is certainly a case to say his own team have done the same thing in recent times and it may just be that this is the year that they finally do miss out on the Champions League.
It is therefore tempting to bill this as a huge match in the Gunners’ future. Champions League football will bring prestige and money, but then Arsenal will be spending big anyway, and Wenger’s future is unlikely to be swung by one result. But a large part of Arsenal’s international reputation has been built on regular Champions League football at the latter stages – big questions would have to be asked if they fail to finish in the top four. They are the Premier League’s form team coming into this game, but form goes out of the window when the stakes are so high and they could barely be greater as Wenger takes his team north.
Newcastle United 0-6 Liverpool (27/04; Premier League)
West Ham United 0-0 Newcastle United (04/05; Premier League)
QPR 1-2 Newcastle United (12/05; Premier League)
Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United (28/04; Premier League)
QPR 0-1 Arsenal (04/05; Premier League)
Arsenal 4-1 Wigan Athletic (14/05; Premier League)
Newcastle United: Cheick Tiote (doubt); Steven Taylor (doubt); Davide Santon (doubt); Moussa Sissoko; Massaido Haidara; Ryan Taylor; Rob Elliot; Tim Krul; Shola Ameobi
Arsenal: Mikel Arteta (doubt); Abou Diaby
Players to watch
Newcastle – Hatem Ben Arfa: Ben Arfa has had a frustrating season blighted by injury, but he scored a penalty last week against QPR and should thrive with the pressure off. The creative hub of this Newcastle side, no other player in Pardew’s ranks possesses his ability to make something from nothing. He can cause panic in this Arsenal defence and he more than anyone will be who Tottenham fans’ hopes rest with on the afternoon.
Arsenal – Aaron Ramsey: Arsenal’s player of the month for April was Ramsey, who has recently found an identity in Wenger’s side. Often played out of position on the wing, the Welshman has revelled in Jack Wilshere’s absence in the centre of the pitch. His work is not as spectacular as Wilshere’s, but it is extremely efficient, his passing key to keeping Arsenal ticking over in possession. The goal against Wigan on Tuesday was long coming and a Ramsey full of confidence could be the man to watch here for Arsenal.
The mood will be interesting at St. James’ Park. Newcastle can breathe easily having secured Premier League football, but it is easy to forget that they have now conceded nine goals without reply at home after crushing defeats to Liverpool and Sunderland. The visit of an in-form Arsenal, whose defence is notably tighter since Laurent Koscielny displaced Thomas Vermaelen, could see that run continue.
That said, one team will be playing with tension while the other can relax. Arsenal know they will be in for a tough game against a Newcastle side with nothing to lose. The Gunners won 7-3 at the Emirates Stadium in December but it was an even game until the visitors’ tired late on. Expect a nervy encounter here. Arsenal’s defence is tighter but hardly watertight, and Mikel Arteta will be a big miss if he isn’t fit to start. The Spaniard has an underrated importance to the Arsenal defence and his calf strain will cause Wenger worries over the next 24 hours.
Theo Walcott has been in good form of late, with three goals in three games, while Santi Cazorla was superb against Wigan, setting up all four goals and giving Arsenal the creativity they need to click. With Arsenal in good form and clicking, they should have enough to edge this game and secure a nervy win. Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal.
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