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Up North We Go

Dear Goonerholics Forever Readers,

We have been working hard this past six weeks on a campaign in support of Bob Wilson’s Willow Foundation. All our coming efforts celebrating Arsenal’s Double year of 1970-71 you’ll see during the month of May are the results. We’ve added a donation tile at right, in hopes you’ll find something in your hearts (and wallets!) to share with the good folks at Willow. Let them know how much you enjoy(ed) our efforts. And watch for the auction, starting Monday 3 May.

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The Team from Goonerholicsforever.com

Hello again everyone and welcome to the preview of the next step in our sadly faltering PL campaign. As the title of this piece suggests we are off to Newcastle this week. As I know many of you may not be familiar with the North I have added an image of the bustling town centre*. The last time the Gunners travelled north for a game between two Europa League ties we returned home with three points, three goals and a clean sheet against Sheffield United. A repeat against Newcastle United this Sunday would be very welcome as the mood among the Goonerscenti has been anxious at best recently. Leaving aside the distractions of the super league shenanigans – and I don’t think they are any excuse if you look at the recent results of the other clubs involved – the team have not performed well in our last three games and the fan base is becoming understandably impatient. I think a win at Newcastle would at least give the players a little more confidence, and failing that it would cheer me up! 

It is, it must be said, an end of season trip we could probably do without as our final league position of also ran was settled some weeks back and a year (a week?) from now no one will remember this result. However, the situation is what it is and entirely of our own making so I would hope that whoever is selected will stand up to be counted. Speaking of which, I have seen it suggested that we should empty out the reserves cupboard for this one and keep anyone likely to start next week either on the bench or sat at home. Although that is not an entirely unreasonable suggestion I don’t think we will do that just now, firstly because Mikel doesn’t seem inclined and secondly it’s best to keep our noses clean on accusations of weakened sides in the current climate. Who then will play?

The Line Up

It has not been easy to successfully predict our starting XI over the last few months and this game is no exception with decisions to be made in almost every position. I will assume that Mat Ryan starting the other week was a one-off and expect Leno to be in goal. In defence we have the option, I believe, of whether to bring back KT and David Luiz. A risk too far in KT’s case as his probable deputy is Xhaka, whereas in Luiz’s case I don’t, in all honesty, see a lot of difference in quality between Rob, Gabriel, Mari and Luiz. I marginally prefer Luiz and would take the chance to reintroduce him for this game. It could be either Hector or Calum at right-back, depending on Calum’s fitness as he seems the current first choice. At left-back I would personally play Soares but as we haven’t seen him since the Slavia home debacle (was he really any worse than some of the others?), I am guessing he is not an option in Mikel’s mind which leaves us with Granit Xhaka – what is there to say that hasn’t been said? Moving on to central midfield, I expect to see either Elneny or Thomas starting with Dani, who for obvious reasons will not be playing next week. Further forward things will depend a lot on fitness levels, MA was pessimistic about Auba being ready to start and I don’t have any update as yet on Laca’s hammy. Given Auba is still not fully match fit should we really start Laca even if he is fit? Gabi should certainly be ready to go and Odegaard could probably use some match time but the situation with ESR and Saka is unclear. Willian and Nketiah await a chance as, slightly further away, does Balogun. 

Having said all that, it is time to put forward a possible XI, although I will drink a decent bottle of Bordeaux during the game if this XI is correct**


Chambers, Luiz, Marí, Xhaka

Thomas, Dani

Saka, Odegaard, Gabi


As you will see and to answer my own question I would indeed start Laca. 

The Opposition

The Toon, as they are called by the Newcastle United faithful, are safe for another season of mediocre under-achievement and all round meh-ness, thanks in no small way to Joe W. who has popped up with several vital goals for them over the last few weeks. In the interests of research I chatted with a couple of their supporters this week but I’m afraid it mostly descended into an argument about which club’s owner was hated the most. What I did manage to glean was that they have been playing “ok” and you’d have to say that is probably better than us over the last three games. It has also not gone unnoticed by said Northerners that we are exactly the type of mid-table side you want to play if you are trying to move away from the bottom three. They seemed pleased as well that Callum Wilson is set to start. Or at least he is according to the affably incompetent Steve Bruce. We have, I suppose, been warned though as I happily mentioned to them at the time I find it difficult to take their team seriously and expect they will go down next season once we don’t loan them any players to get them out of Durham.

In fact, we have a good recent record against Newcastle and have won the last five in the PL by an aggregate of 12-1, including a decent performance in a 3-0 win at our place in January, as well as dumping them out of the Cup in extra time the same month. Surely, if you’ve done something five times then you can do it six?

The Holic Pound

Newcastle have eked out some results over the last month or so and some caution may be called for in the circumstances.  The bookies seem to think so and favour 1-1 as the most likely scoreline. I will not of course be recommending such a score and would prefer to wager on 3-1 to The Arsenal at 18-1. That would be a fair result in the circumstances though a better one would be no injuries ahead of the 2nd leg with Villareal next week. 

I wish us all the best of the game and who knows it may turn out to be one of those entertaining end of season clashes where both teams attack recklessly and provide a thriller for the fans – we live in hope, COYGs!!

Noted Without Comment

The absurd and incompetent Mike Dean will referee the game.

* Actually, in the interests of honesty and credit where it’s due it’s Hartlepool and it’s a brilliantly evocative photo taken by John Bulmer in 1961.

** Actually I will drink it if it is wrong too. It’ll be all the more enjoyable if we play well and a consolation if we don’t. 

Coming soon to a blog near you (this one!)

Celebrate the 1970-71 Double at Goonerholics Forever. Watch Bob & Pat in conversation, read fans’ reminiscences, bid for signed memorabilia and donate to the Willow Foundation via the tile in the right margin!

Pat Rice broke through, aged 21, in 1970-71, played over 500 games for the Arsenal and as player & coach, he won more trophies at the Arsenal than anyone else. 55 appearances in 1970-71.

76 Drinks to “Up North We Go”

  1. 1
    Trev says:

    Nice one, Matt.

    Amusingly dismissive of the barcodes – that really annoys them 🤣 – as we should be, ahem, preaching from our mighty TENTH ! place.

    I have completely given up trying to predict this manager’s selections – although ironically I was only one out in the Everton preview. I cannot imagine what Soares did in training to get relegated behind the coastal erosion slow Xhaka at left back. To be fair to Xhaka he is not a left back, and will immediately be found out by any decent pacy winger, but he is strangely missed in midfield, where we are a disorganised mess without him.

    I do like Arteta and I really want him to succeed as our manager but the tinkering with team and tactics needs to stop. We had no shape or plan on Thursday and the lack of a focal point up front while Martinelli sat on the bench was plain silly.

  2. 2
    North Bank Ned says:

    Nice one, OM. Newcastle is just North Gateshead, really.

    Three-nil will do nicely.

    A half for KT3, if he is fit enough, would be a welcome warm-up for next Thursday.

  3. 3
    TTG says:

    A fine preview and I suspect better than the game will deserve!
    I’m not normally pessimistic when we play Newcastle , we largely own them home or away but we may be distracted tomorrow.
    Arteta played Tinkerman on Thursday ( not very well ) and several players were more like Tinkerbelle . He wildly overcomplicated things on Thursday. St.Maximin will wreak havoc tomorrow and perhaps we might introduce Elneny to try to curb him . Ceballos should play because he isn’t going to on Thursday , Odegaard and Auba need games and I would not have Saka anywhere near this game . Nor ESR , Partey , Pepe or Xhaka . I think Luiz and Gabriel will be the CBs and Cedric will be left-back .
    I can’t see us winning it but we might get a 1-1 draw if we don’t concede first

  4. 4
    North Bank Ned says:

    Club site saying Laca out for Sunday, KT3 doubtful and David Luiz available.

    Apparently, the squad remained in Spain after the Villareal game and will fly directly to Newcastle. That explains why the travelling party was so large.

  5. 5
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for an excellent and good humored preview, OsakaMatt.

    Ned, When McGuire spent an extra couple of days in Greece his mischief landed him in jail so I hope none of our players considers it a shenanigans-filled Mediterranean beach holiday both for the team’s and their individual benefit.

  6. 6
    TTG says:

    Yes Lacazette is definitely out and we’d be mad to risk KT3 tomorrow.We are so limited for midfield options . I posted a fact today in the WA group that the U23s have won one of their last eleven and we went out of the Youth Cup at Liverpool .There is a lad at Newcastle , Willock , we might look at or one at West Brom , Maitland- Niles who might be useful tomorrow. Partey is , despite a very underwhelming series of performances , vital to us on Thursday and we need to play Xhaka in central midfield then . Thursday is everything.

  7. 7
    bt8 says:

    Chambers in defensive midfield remains an untried option, to my knowledge. Untried except when he was at Fulham of course but he passed that test quite comfortably as I recall.

  8. 8
    Silly Second Yella says:

  9. 9
    bt8 says:

    Martinelli at center forward seems to me to be an option whose time has most definitely come, and we had best take it in my opinion before it is opportunity come and gone.

  10. 10
    bt8 says:

    I liked the photo, OM. No matter whether it is of Newcastle, Hartlepool, or the Faroe Islands. Northern, desolate and charming in its own obscure way.

  11. 11
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks all, it was fun to write.
    With Laca out, I’d guess we’ll see Eddie up front again
    and Auba off the bench for the last 20 to continue
    his return.
    I wouldn’t start Saka either TTG, but I think that with
    Laca out MA most probably will. Unless of course we
    persevere with the false 9 thing

  12. 12
    TTG says:

    Bt8’s suggestion about Chambers in midfield makes sense and we mustn’t overlook the opportunity to use Balogun. This might be a decent game to blood him. I hooe the false 9 experiment is confined to the dustbin of history

  13. 13
    Steve T says:

    Cheers Matt. Good stuff as always.

    I have no idea what side Arteta will pick. All I would say is that if we are hoping to use the likes of Luiz, PEA and KT3 on Thursday the presumably they would benefit from some game time, if fit. I can’t see any of them lasting a full 90 minutes so that would obviously have massive implications on our 95th minute substitution options???? The one thing I do hope is that Martinelli gets a start and a decent run out.

    I have genuinely given up trying to predict these matches. I have no idea who he will pick, how they will line up, if they will even turn up and whose fault it will ultimately be. Although, with Jasper Carrot’s love child in charge at least we all have a starting point.

  14. 14
    Uplympian says:

    Thanks Matt for another entertaining preview.
    I think we all have given up trying to guess a starting line up – all we can do is give our preferred starting XI. With all our eyes cast on the upcoming return leg v Villa Real, I assume Arteta will pick a starting line up that reflects this. The Toon are showing a bit of form this late in the season and although they are probably safe now from relegation, another 3 points will help their cause tremendously. This has coincided with the return from injuries of their star forward Allan Saint-Maximin along with the dangerous Callum Wilson. They add pace to their attack and the former playing against our incumbent placeless Left Back is a disaster waiting to happen. I hope Cedric plays LB & Hector RB, although the latter has lost some pace he is probably still faster than Chambers. Gabriel is also more pacy than Mari so may be worth a punt at CB.
    I would also rest both Saka & ESR for this match – keep them fresh and injury free for Thursday. Like others hopefully Martinelli will be given a run out – possibly more useful at LW, where he could help the LB if he was being over run. This leaves either Eddie or trying out Pepe as CF – whose pace, trickery and unpredictably might cause the opposition some difficulties.
    I’m not optimistic of a good result – we have had “their number” for some years now but this season we have allowed several teams to overcome a losing run against us – time normal service was resumed. COYR

  15. 15
    Osakamatt says:

    Thanks ST, Uply

    Uply – I guess you meant paceless?
    Placeless is what he’d be if I was manager

  16. 16
    Osakamatt says:

    yes, I thought Calum was still in
    the squad as CB or DM cover!
    He’s done ok at RB but I watched
    him at DM at Fulham and thought
    he did well.

  17. 17
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks OM
    I’m sticking with 3-0 – the scorers are Nketiah, Willian and Martinelli.
    You heard it here first.

  18. 18
    Uplympian says:

    You are correct Matt, a truly Freudian slip there!

  19. 19
    Bathgooner says:

    Great stuff OM. Love the image. It’s impossible to predict the starting 11. You hit the nail on the head that the best result “would be no injuries ahead of the 2nd leg with Villareal next week” and as long as those in need of match sharpness get a good run out, those in need of rest get rested and we get oot o’ toon with a point or three and a confidence-boosting performance I’ll be delighted.

  20. 20
    Bathgooner says:

    Celebrate the Arsenall’s first double at Goonerholics Forever. Watch Bob and Pat’s videos, read the fan reminiscences, bid for memorabilia and most importantly, donate to the Willow Foundation to support their important work.

    Bob leaps for victory on winning the league at White Hart Lane. Bob was ever present that season with 56 appearances and a stunning 26 clean sheets! Legend!

  21. 21
    Countryman100 says:

    Newcastle away was one of the easiest away tickets to get. We would normally make a weekend of it, enjoying a meal and a few beers on the Quayside. After a fry up the following morning, the steady walk uphill through the town to the ground. Then up the 12 flights of stairs to the away section. Round about now I’d be catching my breath after that. But it is quite a view away to the Tyne (unless it’s foggy).

  22. 22
    Countryman100 says:

    After the game, down to A1 then fish and chips at the Weatherby Whaler.

  23. 23
    Esso says:

    Arsenal: Ryan, Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Xhaka, Ceballos, Odegaard, Elneny, Willian, Martinelli, Aubameyang

    Subs: Leno, Cedric, Chambers, Mari, Saka, Partey, Smith Rowe, Pepe

  24. 24
    OsakaMatt says:

    More of my predicted XI is on the bench than on the pitch
    Nice to see that Auba is fit enough to start

  25. 25
    North Bank Ned says:

    Laca, we knew, would be out, but no sign of Tierney, so he must be doubfful for Thursday. No Holding or Nketiah on the bench. Not sure what we do for a striker if Auba has to come off. Reiss Nelson must have given up all hope of getting a game by now.

  26. 26
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Alright then Mikel
    Auba to replace Nketiah as scorer.
    Stll UTA.

  27. 27
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@7: Chambers played around a dozen matches at DM when he first joined us, but not since then, as far as I can tell, although, as you mention, Fulham used him extensively in that position when he was on loan there.

  28. 28
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers for the preview OM. I enjoyed it very much.

    I’ve got no idea what the result might be today. I hope that we pull off a comfortable victory.

    And that’s all I have to say about that. 🙃

  29. 29
    Osakamatt says:

    ok, COYGs!!

  30. 30
    ksn says:


  31. 31
    Osakamatt says:

    Get in Mo! 1-0

  32. 32
    Countryman100 says:

    Top volley from the Egyptian. I’ve seen better goalkeeping mind.

  33. 33
    Osakamatt says:

    need to keep playing Gabi in
    against the RB

  34. 34
    Countryman100 says:

    Top save from Ryan.

  35. 35
    ksn says:

    OM, a good chance of making the 1-3 score you felt was the most likely in your enjoyable preview. Must acknowledge Dr.F and Bt8 for the last two contributions.

  36. 36
    Steve T says:

    And there you go. 19 mins and 30 seconds. The reason right there why Granit Xhake should never play at left back. What a ridiculous foul and what a ridiculous yellow card. I often wonder if he just leaves the limited amount of brain cells he has in his possession, in the dressing room?????

  37. 37
    Countryman100 says:

    Xhaka stupid booking (I really should get this onto a short cut)

  38. 38
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks ksn,
    Unlucky Xhaka, the shot I mean not the booking

  39. 39
    OsakaMatt says:

    Nearly 2-0 Mo. off the line by Almiron

  40. 40
    Countryman100 says:

    Folks while you are here, don’t forget to donate to Willow (if you haven’t already).

  41. 41
    ksn says:

    Arteta is stubborn, if nothing else, to persist with Xhaka at left back and it would be the limit if he plays him there on Thursday. If Arteta takes a dislike for someone he really punishes that person. Can’t understand why he doesn’t play Cedric nowadays; just like he wouldn’t play Saliba or Martinelli or Nelson earlier. Today would have been ideal to give players like Nelson a run out but Arteta won’t. A man of very set ways.

  42. 42
    Steve T says:

    I must admit, I’m getting really pissed off with Ceballos and his theatrics.

  43. 43
    Steve T says:

    We’ve dominated the first half and need to be more clinical. Hopefully there will be more urgency in the second half.

  44. 44
    OsakaMatt says:

    A decent first half performance, might be wisest to sub Xhaka at half time as he is on a yellow.

  45. 45
    Countryman100 says:

    Luiz done. Hammy.

  46. 46
    ksn says:

    Luiz has injured himself(hamstring?) and Chambers on for him.

  47. 47
    OsakaMatt says:

    Calum coming on. At CB I assume

  48. 48
    OsakaMatt says:

    Unfortunate for Luiz, and us I think

  49. 49
    ksn says:

    Get Xhaka off!

  50. 50
    Countryman100 says:

    Granit red card in 3, 2, 1

  51. 51
    Steve T says:

    Gents, you’ve beaten me to it.

    Xhaka at left back is even more of a liability then he is in midfield. Hard to believe, but it’s actually true.

  52. 52
    ksn says:

    Auba tucks in a beautiful cross by Martinelli.

  53. 53
    OsakaMatt says:

    2-0 Auba!!!

  54. 54
    Countryman100 says:

    What a lovely goal. Great ball by Gabi, great finish by Auba

  55. 55
    Countryman100 says:

    Odegaard stayed calm to control, wait for space to develop and then lay in Gabi as well

  56. 56
    Steve T says:

    As above. Great work, fantastic cross, great finish.

  57. 57
    ksn says:

    Pepe coming on for Auba. Decent game and a good run out for Auba.

  58. 58
    OsakaMatt says:

    Pepe for Auba.
    Auba looked rusty but scored and that will do nicely

  59. 59
    OsakaMatt says:

    Game meandering somewhat
    Let’s hope for no silly goal to give them hope

  60. 60
    OsakaMatt says:

    Quick shot of Joe W in the stand
    He looked bored

  61. 61
    ksn says:

    Odegaard off, Partey on. Few decent touches for Odegaard.

  62. 62
    OsakaMatt says:

    Or perhaps I should more charitably say “sleepy “

  63. 63
    Steve T says:

    2 nil up against a rubbish Newcastle side with 4 minutes go. As an Arsenal fan, you still don’t feel confident.

  64. 64
    ksn says:

    Straight red for Schar for challenge on Martinelli. Good call by Mike Dean as it was studs up with lot of force and was a bit reckless.
    Fortunately, Martinelli appears to be ok.

  65. 65
    Countryman100 says:

    You dirty Northern bastards!

  66. 66
    Steve T says:

    And the Geordies have their own brain dead buffoon to rival Xhaka in the decision making stakes.

  67. 67
    OsakaMatt says:

    Martinelli looks ok fortunately.
    Schar is a complete idiot, why do that with 3 minutes to go

  68. 68
    ksn says:

    Quite a comfortable outing as Newcastle didn’t turn up. Ninth in the table with 49 points, one ahead of Villa who have played a game less.

  69. 69
    bt8 says:

    Job well done on the day. Kudos to the players.

  70. 70
    OsakaMatt says:

    2-0 and a solid performance, got on top early and never really let them back in the game.
    Ryan did well and so did Mo and Gabi but the loss of Luiz is a blow.

  71. 71
    bt8 says:

    You can only beat the team in front of you, and we did. On to Villarreal.

  72. 72
    North Bank Ned says:

    62% possession and just five shots on target against a not overly impressive Newcastle side. Points up the persistent problem.

  73. 73
    ksn says:

    Today’s game high lighted how inconsistent we are. Don’t know which Arsenal will turn up on Thursday. Happy with the display and that Auba, Martinelli had a good outing. Thursday is really crucial to salvaging something from this season.

  74. 74
    bt8 says:

    Liked our well known goal production chain of Luiz-Hector-Auba-Elneny.

  75. 75
    Steve T says:

    A comfortable three points in a game where we didn’t really have to get out of second gear.

    I hope Luiz is nothing too serious. We just do not look as assured as when he is playing.

    On to Thursday

  76. 76
    Bathgooner says: