NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal battles for the ball with Cheik Tiote of Newcastle United during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St James' Park on August 13, 2011 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Arsenal vs. Newcastle United
Kickoff: 4 PM EDT/2000 GMT, Monday, March 12 (yes, you read that correctly)
Emirates Stadium, N5, London,
Britannia Saxony Norman Holdings Angerland
Form: Arsenal LLWWW | Newcastle WWLDD
SBNation Newcastle coverage: Coming Home Newcastle
Televisual Coverage: ESPN2, ESPN3.com, ESPN Deportes
Arsenal welcome in sixth-place Newcastle United tomorrow afternoon for a bit of the ol' Premier League action. The UK hasn't moved their clocks ahead an hour yet, so the game is on at a somewhat unusual time. Newcastle have been one of the league's surprise squads this year, making a number of astute signings including Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, as well as Yohan Cabaye, Davide Santon, and Cheick Tiote. The newly-extended Tim Krul is kind of a monster in goal, too, so things aren't going to be simple.
Last time these two sides met at the Emirates, something happened. I don't remember what it was. I seem to have [redacted].
More after the jump.
Last time these two sides met period, St. James' Park was treated to the lovely sight of grown men hitting each other for no good reason at all. Hopefully that won't happen again this time*, because it was darned irritating. That match ended in a 0 - 0 draw, but tomorrow, should Arsenal win, they can solidify their standing in fourth place above Chelsea and move within one point of Tottenham Hotspur.
*(HINT: there's no way it will)
Arsenal are in a good run of form right now, especially at home, where they have disintegrated their opponents by a combined score of 15-3 over their last three home fixtures. There are returners to the squad, too; in addition to bench mobbers Andre Santos and Yossi Benayoun, Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta have both returned to fitness as well in time for the match, which gives Arsene Wenger a bit of a selection headache in midfield. Tomas Rosicky has looked imperiously sprightly (yep) at the head of Arsenal's center, and it would seem perilous to remove him from that spot at this point. However, Ramsey has probably had a good deal of needed rest during his injury layoff, and he may offer a lot to the attack should he return as well. However, it seems unlikely that Wenger will want to monkey too much with a good thing.
Arteta's return gives one pause, perhaps, only because concussions are downright scary, but presuming he is fit, he will almost certainly slot into his customary deeper continuity role in the side, with Alex Song next to him. This means the odd man out is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and given Wenger's remarks that he is loathe to put too much pressure on the 18-year old, a seat on the bench seems likely. Chamberlain offers a great deal as a sub, as well, though, able to change the dynamic in a static match perhaps more than anyone besides possibly Benayoun.
Gervinho and Theo Walcott will almost assuredly be your starters on the wing. Someone will start at striker--I couldn't possibly guess who JUST KIDDING IT WILL BE ROBIN VAN PERSIE DUH
For Newcastle's part, it appears they've hilost Peter Lovenkrands for the year to a torn thigh muscle, but they still have plenty of mag pie at their disposal even without Leon Best, Sammy Ameobi, and Nile "Night" Ranger. The aforementioned Cisse and Ba will cause anyone on earth problems, and Tiote and Cabaye are serious business as well. Fabricio Coloccini is in a good vein of form in the moment at the back, as is Ryan Taylor. Hatem Ben Arfa is no slouch in a weird creative role, either. It will not be easy; Alex Song will have to track the play of Ben Arfa and Cabaye, and if Newcastle deploy two strikers, Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny could struggle. Song will have to help them out, in that case.
There will be goals in this game.
PREDICTION: Arsenal get off to a bright start, but Newcastle weather the early storm, and after 10 minutes, it remains scoreless. Robin van Persie discovers that Mikel Arteta is actually a deep cover double agent who's been indoctrinated by Newcastle and is working for a group of Mike Ashley Reapers hovering on the edge of the galaxy waiting to buy up everything and start it all over again. Working together with a band of the Arsenal youth team and former enemy Yossi Benayoun, Robin van Persie travels the galaxy amassing evidence and resources to take down Arteta, all while the rest of Newcastle's eyes glow weirdly blue. In the second minute of stoppage time, Wenger finally believes van Persie, and nearly too late, but as Ashley crashes his giant spaceship shaped like a bug into the Emirates, van Persie scores a late winner, breaking his arm in the process, climbing atop the rubble, and taking his mantle as Hero of the Galaxy.