St James’ Park, Newcastle
16:00 GMT, 19th May 2013
This is it! The last game of the season for all teams as they lock horns at the same time all over England like every year and give their all before they take a much deserved break in the midst of ‘transfer business’ filled summer.
While most of the teams will play for glory and impressing the manager, there are a few teams for whom this last league game is absolutely crucial for club future. Arsenal, like last season, falls into that category. It is a must win game for the Gunners as they travel to Newcastle to secure European ambitions for next season. Newcastle, on the other hand, are safe from relegation battle after winning a game against QPR last time around; they can finish 10th in the table if they manager to get the better of the high-flying Gunners.
In the 120th season of professional football, Newcastle United had a very mediocre season. The sold their top striker Demba Ba in the middle of the season to Chelsea showing their ambitions for the season-end. They managed to hold on to Papiss Cisse, another prolific striker, but a lowly league table finish should not be the ambition for the Magpies. Quite recently they managed to concede six at home to Liverpool without Luis Suarez and more importantly lost their derby game against Sunderland 0-3 too. With an important win against QPR, now they are safe and out of relegation battle. Either they show some intent at home or just fade away to self criticism, although for that they have the whole summer.
Arsenal, on the other hand, had a mediocre start to their season but an emphatic finish has brought them to this juncture. From Feb 1st, they have played 13 games and lost just once, putting them at the top of the table during that time. A win at Newcastle will guarantee them Champions League football albeit some qualifiers before the main event. With the club now financially stable with new deals, a massive summer is in front of them, but before all that, they need to bring home three points and bunch of confidence to take them through to the summer.
Though the team is safe and don’t have anything to fight for, Alan Pardew has insisted that they will give Arsenal a decent challenge on the last day of the season. After recording their first win in six games, Newcastle’s downward spiral now doesn’t look that bad as they can finish as high as 10th if they manage to beat Arsenal. That, though, is a gargantuan task as Arsenal are on an emphatic run, unbeaten in 10 games in the league and have conceded just 8 goals in the last 13 games, better than anybody in the league.
As far as team news go, Steven Taylor returns for the final game of the season but may not be fit to start it. He had missed the win over QPR on account of illness. Keeper Rob Elliot is suspended and Steve Harper will fill in for him. The 38 year old keeper will, in all probability, make his last appearance in Black and White, having spent 20 years at the club. The return of Ben Arfa is a huge relief to the manager, he is their main creative player and one who is capable of changing a game on his own.
Considering Arsenal put seven past them the last time they met, Newcastle need to be air-tight at the defence, Argentine Colocinni being a vital cog at the center of the backline. In fact, Pardew’s side has shipped in nine goals in their last two home games. An abundance of French talent will try to dictate proceedings at home but a minor flip can absolutely destroy them against a Europe hungry Arsenal side.
Possible Starting Line-Up (4-4-2): Harper; Coloccini, Williamson, Yanga-M’Biwa, Debuchy; Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez, Perch; Cisse, Gouffran
The club has their sight on Europe and they don’t have to rely on other teams to do them a favor this time around. They can simply bring three points home and party hard for their achievements at the tail-end of the season.
Though Lukas Fabianski has returned back to fitness, Arsene is expected to stick with his main man in front of the posts. Bacary Sagna will continue at Right Back, a few pessimestic Arsenal fans will want to believe that this will be his last game in Arsenal colors, the Frenchman walks into his last season of contract. The incredibly stable backline of Per Mertesacker and Koscielny will continue, with an incredible record of losing just one game throughout the season when they started at Center Back, that too against the mighty Bayern Munich. Gibbs will start ahead of Monreal at Left Full Back.
With Mikel Arteta out of this game, Arsenal will need some re-invented composure at the middle of the park. Considering Wilshere’s impending surgery, the manager might not risk him in this last game of the season. In that case, Rosicky will slot back to the middle with Ramsey and Cazorla will start at his favorite position. The young Englishman looks quite charged up for the battle though –
“A few people have said that they [Newcastle] are alright now and are not fighting for relegation but they will be relaxed. They can play and enjoy their game and I’m sure their manager will say that to them. We’ve got to be professional, do our job and get a few goals. We can’t rely on Sunderland to do a job at Tottenham. We have to win the game and then we’ll know where we will be.”
The big news as far as Arsenal’s frontline is concerned, Olivier Giroud returns back into the side and will straight away enter the team, pushing two-goals Lukas Podolski to the left wing. Theo Walcott will give them company in the front. The returning Giroud is understandably pepped up for the big occassion too –
“For Newcastle, it will maybe be a little bit different because Newcastle will play in the Premier League next season. I think it’s a good thing for us. Now we have to do the job and keep focused on our qualities and our game. Never mind if they are a little bit relieved, they will maybe play without pressure. I’m not sure but I think it’s better for us.”
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last nine league games, their best sequence for two years, when they went 16 without loss. [Stat via @Telegraph]
- Arsenal scored seven at home against Newcastle in the reverse fixture.
- Four different Arsenal players (Walcott, Cazorla, Giroud & Podolski) have scored 10 or more goals in the Premier League this season, meaning that the Gunners are only the fourth side in history to have four players reach double figures in a single PL campaign
- If only the second half of Premier League matches counted this season, Arsenal would be top with 71 points, three points ahead of Manchester City
Player To Watch Out For
Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
The charismatic Frenchman returns and will be more relaxed than before after sitting out for three games following a dubious suspension. Having done wonders for ladies in a recent Charity event, he will love to finish the season on a high, helping Arsenal secure all three points. He is our man to watch out for!
Newcastle 1-3 Arsenal
Newcastle will try their best in the first half but will fail to hold on to a rampaging Arsenal side, who are clearly on a mission. Goals to Giroud, Cazorla and Theo will see Arsenal finish this with three goals and points.