The pre-season is over. The transfer window is shut and now, after a slew of speculation and punditry actual games are about to be played. For the Arsenal, that means a trip up to the north of England and St. James Park where they kickoff the 2019-2020 season versus Newcastle United.
While the end of the transfer window brings new hope, it may be some time until all of Arsenal’s new signings can take to the field. What takes the pitch on Sunday may look very familiar to the Arsenal from last season.
The Arsenal faithful will be hoping that despite that, they can start the season with some energy and get off on the right foot.
New or Old Arsenal?
Arsenal signed 6 players this transfer window and 9 first teamers leave. Of the 6 players that were signed one, William Saliba has been sent back to France on loan. Another one, Kieran Tierney, was signed with an injury and is about 4-6 weeks away from a return. The other 3 are in various states of fitness and could feature in some form this weekend. Dani Ceballos seems the most likely starter provided he has recovered from the knock he picked up last Sunday at Camp Nou in the final friendly of the summer.
The bigger question as to whether we see a new or old Arsenal is whether or not Emery persists with the 4-2-3-1 we saw throughout the summer or does he revert to the form that closed out the season on the road and set up with 3 at the back. The 4-2-3-1 he used was dynamic and it certainly created chances for the Gunners. It seemed to have a good effect on Mesut Özil, the Gunners chief creator, who looked more engaged and committed than he did at any time during Emery’s first season.
Using the 4-2-3-1 would imply that Emery doesn’t intend to sit back against a team he should be able to comfortably attack. The problem in the close of last season was his over committing to the shoring up the defence that he had us sit back and invite pressure on the backline.
It was a mistake. Setting up with a back 3 and inviting pressure only made matters worse. With a stable of central defenders who aren’t that great in 1v1 situations, they sat deep and Arsenal struggled to contain the pressure invited on them.
With a defensive unit that is going to still struggle the best defence for Arsenal is going to be offence. Set up to be proactive on the ball. Use the greatest asset this team has – it’s attacking talent – and take apart Newcastle.
Regardless of how we set up, the big question remains is how Emery selects his backline. With Holding, Bellerin and Tierney all unavailable that means he’s going to have to piece it together with the likes of Sokratis and Chambers likely for the central pairing and Monreal and Maitland-Niles the most likely choices to deputize as full-backs.
The centre defenders could also change if Emery decides that David Luiz signed from Chelsea on deadline day is fit enough and understands our system enough to play. Then you could expect a pairing of Sokratis and Luiz.
Even with the injuries and lack of fitness Arsenal have more than enough talent available to them to be terrors on the Tyneside. It all depends on how the head coach sees it.
A look at Newcastle
Predicting how Newcastle would play was easier when Rafa was the manager. There were a few years of analytical data to mull over to know how they’d line up strategically. However, Rafa is gone and Steve Bruce has taken over.
What we know is that during the pre-season Bruce had the Geordies playing a 5-3-2. And that’s about it. He could revert to a 5-4-1 when we’re on the ball which would as we know, cause problems for how we like to play.
The other worry is the matchup of Newcastle’s new signing Joelinton vs. the Arsenal centre backs. Signed from Hoffenheim under the tutelage of Nagelesmann, Joelinton is a versatile forward who can play across the front line.
He links up play well but can also create chances for himself. He averaged 3.05 touches per 90 in the box with Hoffenheim. He demands the ball and rather than beating players outright with physical play relies on technical skill to beat defenders.
How he works against Arsenal’s weak central defending pair could determine whether or not the hosts come away with a result or not.
Every season brings a sense of newness to it. The hope is that enough has changed this season that Arsenal can get back in to the top 4 and challenging for honours again. That begins Sunday with Unai Emery and the choices he makes as he starts his second season in charge at Arsenal.
Newcastle 0 – 2 Arsenal
What the Head Coach is Saying (courtesy Football.London)
Realistic? We are happy, we are delighted with our players and our squad. We know it will be difficult but our ambition and motivation is to do the best possible in all competitions.
“The most important competition is the Premier League, we are going to start on Sunday trying to find the regularity to be consistent in 38 matches.
“Our first objective is to be in the top four but knowing it is going to be difficult. Last year we reduced the distance. Manchester City and Liverpool are stronger than others at the beginning but we want to reduce the distance to them and compete with them.
“We can achieve more and more points against them. After Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United have the same objective as us. Last year we had a very small points difference between us. This is another challenge for them, for us.
“Other teams are coming back, signing very good players, working very well. Everton, West Ham, Leicester, Wolverhampton, Watford. The Premier League is the best competition in the world. We are going to work and be with a big challenge to compete for the top four in this competition.”
Players to watch
Arsenal: Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang (average stats per 90 from 2018/2019)
Newcastle United: Joelinton (average stats per 90 from 2018/2019)
Arsenal Record vs. Newcastle United
28W 10L 10D (Premier League Only)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistants: Lee Betts, Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth official: Darren England
VAR: David Coote
Assistant VAR: Nick Hopton
UK: Sky Sports. 14.00 BST
US: NBC Sports Network 9:00 AM EST
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal have won 12 of their last 13 matches against Newcastle, with their solitary defeat coming at St James’ Park in April 2018.
- Newcastle have only beaten Arsenal three times in 36 meetings in all competitions over the past 17 years.
- The Magpies have only kept two clean sheets in this fixture since 2007.
- Arsenal won only seven of their 19 Premier League away games in 2018-19 and kept one clean sheet – fewer than any other side.
- This will be the first time in eight seasons that Arsenal have not opened a league campaign at home. They drew 0-0 at Newcastle in 2011.
- The Gunners have lost four of the last six season-opening Premier League matches.
- Arsenal conceded 51 Premier League goals in both 2017-18 and 2018-19, having never conceded more than 49 goals in any of the first 25 campaigns.
- Thirteen of Arsenal’s last 17 goals in all competitions have been scored by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (9) or Alexandre Lacazette (4).