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Tomorrow we welcome the club that formerly represented the so-called ‘Geordie Nation’ but now represents the somewhat better-heeled Saudi nation. The takeover by a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in October 2021 has prompted predictions of transformation from the sickly shadow of a quasi-mythological ‘local hero’ generating only sympathy for claimed powers lost, to a predatory, footballing superpower. While in truth the club had only intermittent potency formerly, with the assistance of funds of the Saudi Treasury there has been definite progress. They may be seen as less now a magpie scavenging for scraps and more a hawk feeding off titbits while perched on a Sheik’s silk-enrobed arm.

Newcastle United, formed by the amalgamation of Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End, originally played in red shirts and white shorts. The famous black and white stripes were adopted as their permanent first choice kit only after being forced to change their red shirts in their first ever Football League game. That was away to Woolwich Arsenal on 2 September 1893, they drew 2-2 and Newcastle were clearly so pleased with the result that they subsequently stuck with the stripes as their first-choice shirt. 

The Barcodes’ heyday was almost in mythological times. They won an FA Cup and three of their four League titles between 1904 and 1910. They won their fourth and to date last title in 1925 and their last domestic silverware way back in 1955 when they beat City in the FA Cup Final, the third time they won the FA Cup in the 1950’s. Their only subsequent and most recent competitive trophy was the 1968-69 Fairs City Cup. Since then they have had two periods of excitement and hope, both unfulfilled. Keegan’s exhilarating team which achieved two second placed finishes in 1995-6 and 1996-7 was the most exciting team that I saw visit Highbury until Wengerball 1 eclipsed everyone else. The Bobby Robson era brought title challenges and three top five finishes between 2001 and 2004 and Champions League participation but the Geordies have had to live with Ashley-imposed mediocrity until Howe’s revolution began in 2022.

Tomorrow’s game will be our 190th competitive meeting with Newcastle United. We hold the advantage with 83 wins against 68 defeats and 38 draws. In the Premier League, at our place, our record is of course even more respectable with 21 wins, 2 draws and 4 defeats. However, those statistics are of no relevance to a match against this iteration of Newcastle United. The most relevant yardstick is the game at St James’ Park on May 16th last year when a weary Arsenal’s drive for a Champions League place was derailed by a ferocious Newcastle performance driven on by an exuberantly hostile crowd that left us flattered by a 0-2 defeat. That game is regarded as a statement performance on Tyneside with Arsenal representing the team they hope to become.

After the game, Arteta fumed, “They were 10,000 times better than we were today. It is fucking embarrassing to come here the way we have done it. Embarrassing. What happened today is fucking unacceptable.” Howe observed, “This game didn’t really have anything on it for us. And the crowd and the feeling was unbelievable. So, you think to yourself, ‘What if this was for something, what if it was to win something or qualify for something?’ It just showed what the club can be. We set the marker there in that moment, for what we want to be.”

You can bet your bottom dollar that Arteta will have his team focused on winning this game and rectifying that embarrassment and that Howe will have his players fired up to take our scalp again and put another marker down of Newcastle’s progress to prove that there’s a new stag on the hill.

Newcastle’s progress in 2022 has been very impressive. On 1 January 2022 they sat 19th with 1 win and 8 draws from 19 games. Today they sit third after playing 17 games with 9 wins (4 away wins), 7 draws (3 away draws) and a respectable 33 goals scored (15 away goals) and 11 conceded (6 conceded away) showing them to have the most secure defence in the league (we are second with 14 conceded). They come to the Emirates having won 6 of their last 7 games, unbeaten in 12 Premier League fixtures since a 2-1 defeat at Liverpool on 31 August. 2022 has proved to be a transformative year for them, with 21 top flight victories in a calendar year for the first time since 1995. 

The expenditure of over £200m by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in the two windows since they took over may have been a factor. They have added quality in Pope, Trippier, Botman, Guimarães, Wilson and Isak and English steel in Burn and Wood but in addition Schär, Joelinton and Almiron have been coached to produce markedly improved performances. Both Mikel and Pep have publicly acknowledged that Newcastle are title contenders this season.

Unquestionably the appointment of Eddie Howe to replace the hapless Mrs Doubtfire as coach in November 2021 was another significant factor in Newcastle’s transformation, Howe has shown himself to be an excellent coach and he is clearly one of the most talented young English managers to emerge in recent years. However, as Tim recently pointed out in a 7am KO blogpost (https://7amkickoff.com/index.php/2022/12/30/week-15-16-recap/), Howe is ‘whitewashing the ownership’s criminal human rights and modern slavery record’ and offers this link as evidence of Saudi’s despicable practices (https://archive.vn/ArQNr). Not to mention Jamal Khashoggi!

Howe’s team selection is largely predictable. Since December 2021 he has almost invariably played 4-3-3, and he demands a high-pressing, dynamic performance. Interestingly he has regularly played 5 or 6 English players bucking a Premiership trend in recent years. Pope is an able ‘keeper. The back line of Trippier, Schär, Botman and Burn have been parsimonious this season; these centre backs will use their height and physical strength to deal with any high balls into the box but if he continues at left back, Burn should be vulnerable to Saka’s speed and ball skills while, although Trippier may match Martinelli for pace, his tendency to join attacks should leave space behind for Gabigol, Zinchenko, Xhaka or Eddie to exploit. It’ll be interesting to see whether Howe sticks with his back four or if the challenge of facing this Arsenal team makes him opt for a back three. It’s conceivable that Howe may bring Burn inside to left centre-back or bring Lascelles back to play a back three against the league leaders though playing as a wing back may challenge Burn. 

If Howe plays his usual 4-3-3 the midfield is likely to be Longstaff, Guimarães and Willock with Joelinton making a fourth on the left when Newcastle lose possession whilst in possession the latter often alternates front-line support with Willock. Guimarães is a class act and will need to be marshalled carefully by Thomas Partey. Joe Willock has been playing well and will be up for this game against his former mates from Hale End. The newly invigorated Almiron and the lumbering Wood have been the recent front pair with the former drifting in to great effect from the right but Wilson and Saint-Maximin started from the bench for 30 minutes against Leeds on Saturday and while the Ecuadorean’s place is assured, I expect to see Wilson return to their starting eleven on Tuesday. I would be surprised if Saint-Maximin starts on the left ahead of Joelinton and it would be a huge statement of offensive intent by Howe as the Frenchman’s often match-winning dribbling and unpredictability are offset by his poor pressing and reluctant defensive work. If he plays, expect Saka to get plenty one on ones with Burn. Isak and Shelvey are still crocked though the former may make the bench given this game’s importance to their growing self-esteem.

I caught the last hour or so of the Barcodes’ game against Dirty Leeds. Unsurprisingly after 6 consecutive wins and playing their 12th game without defeat, they played with considerable confidence and an expectation of victory. They dominated the second half and spurned several good chances. However, particularly in the last third of the first half, Leeds’ energetic pressing and swift passing and movement opened the Newcastle defence up several times suggesting that Ødegaard might be able to find our mobile front three in promising positions. Until he was substituted late on Almiron represented their biggest attacking threat and he crafted several opportunities from the right after good interplay with Trippier. That pair should inform our selection at left back in my opinion. They had little threat down their left until Saint Maximin came on and I dare say we will see him come off the bench at some point as I suspect starting him would be too gung-ho for Howe. Their other threats are the long ball from the keeper over the middle for Wood to head on or for Wilson to run onto. They are, of course, also very dangerous from set pieces because of their big target men and Trippier’s accuracy with a dead ball. The right-back is also particularly dangerous from a centrally placed free-kick. Wilson is a talented centre forward and our centre backs will certainly know they’ve been in a game. They will need to be on their toes. Wilson, Almiron, Joelinton and Willock are also enthusiastic practitioners of Howe’s high press. However, given all those positives, a Newcastle vulnerability is the temperament of several of their players, notably Guimarães and Joelinton. Their frustration boiled over as the Leeds game wound down. They clearly expected to beat Leeds and undoubtedly they believe that they will challenge for the title. In contrast, we will need to keep our cool.

The Arsenal come into this game sitting 7 points clear at the top of the Premier League after an exemplary first 16 games of the season having picked up where they left off in their first two post-WC games against West Ham and Brighton. Both recent victories showed the flair, technical ability and dynamism of our front three and the vision, ability and sheer brilliance of Ødegaard. It was particularly encouraging to see Eddie’s link up play and brace of goals and we must hope he can keep that up. Partey was imperious in both games and is vital to our forward progress and defensive screen. Sadly, the defence proved to be a tad vulnerable against Brighton. I do think this was in part due to the substitution of an impressive Benjamin White by a very rusty Tomiyasu compounding rustiness from Saliba. They should both benefit from several more days of work on the training ground.

With the FA Cup tie coming up next Monday, there is no need to rotate any of our key players and there is only one position where I would suggest there is a decision to be made. Personally, I would start Tierney at left back rather than Zinchenko as the threat down Newcastle’s right side from Trippier and Almiron is significant and the Scotsman is by far the better defender whilst he still offers attacking verve himself. Hopefully Martinelli’s own attacking threat may cramp Trippier’s style and I would back Tierney against Almiron one on one. However, I expect Arteta to start Zinchenko as he greatly believes in the disrupting effect of the Ukrainian in that inverted position between the lines. I hope it works again. In that case Xhaka will be required to be alive to the need to cover our left flank when we lose possession. He will need to have more of a defensive hat on than he has had to wear of late. 

Hence the team I expect Arteta to start is:


White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko


Ødegaard, Xhaka

Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli

This game is another huge test for our young team. It is a test against another contender not just of our abilities – I believe that we are the better team – but also of our belief that we can beat the other strong contenders and win this league.

Both defences are parsimonious, both attacks are talented. I expect both teams to come out with the intention of winning this game. I also expect a low scoring, tight, nerve-jangling contest. I would be delighted with a good old fashioned 1-0 to the Arsenal. 2-0 would send me into orbit!

The Holic pound? It’s still going to Ukraine along with sundry others. 

Enjoy the game, Holics. If you can.

Come on you Gunners!

45 Drinks to “Time to Assert Dominance”

  1. 1
    Countryman100 says:

    A top preview Bath, full of history and technical analysis. My son and I were there in May at SJP, a trip involving 410 miles on the road and an overnight stay in an (excellent value) Travelodge on Quayside. We were woeful (not me and my offspring, we gave it large). A professional colleague was in the Gallowgate that night and mocked me mercilessly after the game. My wife is from Cumbria and many of her family are Newcastle fans. I’m hoping I can give some of the friendly abuse back tomorrow night. You are right to point out the threats on our left flank, but that night it was Saint-Maximin who tore Cedric a new one on our right. Hopefully Benny Blanco will deal with him. I’m torn between Zinny and KT3 on the left, but would probably start Zinny. Otherwise, as you say, as you were.

    This is a tough, tough game. It will be a nervous night for everybody but, at home, I fancy a 2-1 win.


  2. 2
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thoroughly researched and flawlessly analyzed Bath! An excellent preview.

    Tactical variation and better midfield control vs. more defensive security and relentless pace up a down the left flank? I think Mikel will choose best on the opposition and the occasion but probably with a slight preference for the more unusual option.

    If we can hold control of the game early on and don’t let it get chaotic at any stage I think we have a bit more craft and guile to get the goal or two necessary to win the game. Partey and Xhaka have a big role to play, and would be great to have Saliba-Gabriel partnership reverting back to their imperious performances before the break.

    Everyone going to the match, have a great time.

    Come on Arsenal!

  3. 3
    Doctor Faustus says:

    @2: “…up and down …” and “…based on the opposition…”. 🙂

    And once again: come on Arsenal!

  4. 4
    OsakaMatt says:

    That is a great preview, thanks Bath.

  5. 5
    OsakaMatt says:

    If Newcastle are to be serious contenders this season then tonight is basically a must win game for them, we are currently 9 points ahead of them with a game in hand. Could mean it will end-up a shootout 4-3 game if there are early goals but I think Bath is right and the teams will keep it tight at the start. 1-0 to The Arsenal would be great.

  6. 6
    bt8 says:

    Thanks Bath for your thorough and thoughtful preview. I’m loving the title and picture. But there is no time like the present for a 1-0 to The Arsenal, so let’s be having it!

  7. 7
    North Bank Ned says:

    Excellent, bath. Your preview hits the right points. This will be a tough test, different from the one Brighton posed. Howe has the Barcodes playing with organisation and purpose, and the Saudi money has bought him a more than decent squad to work with. We will have a better view of our young team’s mentality once this game is done, but we can win it. We must win it.

    There is another early connection between the two clubs — Jock Rutherford. The right winger known as ‘the Newcastle flyer’ played almost 300 games for the ‘Toon between 1902 and 1913, their heyday, before being sold to Woolwich Arsenal after falling out with the club over pay; no Saudi largesse in those days. Rutherford would make more than 200 appearances for us, either side of a bizarre two-month spell in 1923 when he went off to become player-manager of Stoke City (he realised his mistake once he got to Stoke). Rutherford played his final match for us against Manchester City in March 1926 at 41 years and 159 days, a record as our oldest outfield player that still stands. A superstitious man, Jock would always be the last player to come onto the field before the start of a game. His son, JJ, also played for Arsenal, but just one league game, against Bury in November 1925. Jock’s great-grandson and JJ’s grandson, Greg, is the Olympic champion long jumper.

  8. 8
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Good stuff Bath,
    We’ll be well up the Saudi money well for this. 2-0 at least.

  9. 9
    Ollie says:

    Great stuff, bath! Another tough match. Hopefully home advantage will help.
    Waiting for my train in an extremely busy Eurostar lounge. Don’t know if it’s always liks that on weekdays. The controls and check-in barely had any queue so I’m guessing weekdays travellers offer a different pattern. Post NY may play a part.

  10. 10
    Trev says:

    Thanks Bath, for an excellent, considered and well researched preview.

    I could easily go with your scorecast while also not being surprised by a goalfest. Both sides are built to attack, albeit from a solid base. Overall, I think we have better quality so will go with us for a 3-1 win. A triumph of hope over reality ? We’ll see – everything crossed !

  11. 11
    Countryman100 says:

    Can one of our finance experts explain the implications of this?

  12. 12
    Esso says:

    Cheers Baff!

  13. 13
    Las says:

    Thanks Bath, for this truly excellent preview! It will be a tough game. Barcodes will try hard to beat us But I’m sure we will be ready. For me, any win will do but our front three supported by our own Captain Fantastic are able to cause havoc so I go for the 3 : 1 for the good guys.
    I read a not so uplifting article at She Wore (a yellow ribbon) about Saliba. Do you have news about his contract situation? https://shewore.com/2023/01/03/william-saliba-contract-extension-bad-news-for-arsenal/

  14. 14
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@11: A MR01 form is essentially a registration of a mortgage. The club is borrowing from Barclays against the security of four seasons’ worth of UK broadcasting revenues, PL and FA, 2020/21-2023/24. What you see on Twitter is a snippet of the full 27-page document. That document is all about the security, not the loan itself, but it hints that the borrowing may be a renewal of the loan the club took from Barclays in May 2021 to repay the earlier £120m Covid loan from the Bank of England (and rid itself of the limitations on what the BoE money could be used for). In the club accounts to May 2022, it says that the club has £70 million in undrawn borrowing facilities that expire in less than a year, so this is what is likely being refunded/topped up. In short, we are turning future broadcast income into available working capital today.

  15. 15
    Countryman100 says:

    Many thanks Ned.

  16. 16
    Countryman100 says:

    Ollie are you coming over for the United game? Any other holic’s attending that game that I don’t know about already?

  17. 17
    Countryman100 says:

    And before anyone asks, no we don’t have any spare tickets. They are, as the Guvna used to say, as rare as rocking horse shit.

  18. 18
    North Bank Ned says:

    Slight typo in my @13: it is Premier and Football League, not PL and FA broadcast rights that we have assigned to Barclays. Looking at a May 2021 MR01, we have already assigned those to the bank, so the latest MR01 looks like a part of routine cash flow management so we have the money to hand on the off chance we wanted, say, to buy a Ukrainian winger or build a statue to AW. The club owes KSR approaching a quarter of a billion pounds for taking over the outstanding stadium debt and providing some working capital, as per the May 2022 accounts. I am guessing that we might push up against the boundaries of UEFA or the PL’s Financial Fair Play rules if we asked Stan for more, plus as a matter of good business practice, the club would want to keep open its credit line to its commercial bankers.

  19. 19
    Bathgooner says:

    Thanks for the kind words, chaps. It was an interesting research exercise. I do think Newcastle see us as a model except they have stacks of ready cash to splash at will.

    Off to the game now.


  20. 20
    North Bank Ned says:

    Marca reports that Al Nassr has agreed to loan Ronaldo to Newcastle if the ‘Toon qualifies for next season’s Champions League. No Saudi shenanigans there, then!


  21. 21
    TTG says:

    I’m late to the party Bath and this has delayed me reading a super, very comprehensive preview . Your reasoning on team selection for both sides is faultless . I think we will be unchanged from Saturday .
    I am optimistic that we will record a 2-0 victory

  22. 22
    Esso says:

    Arsenal XI: Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey; Odegaard, Xhaka; Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli

    Newcastle XI: Pope; Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn; Longstaff, Guimaraes, Willock; Almiron, Wilson, Joelinton

  23. 23
    North Bank Ned says:

    We are unchanged:

    White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko
    Partey,, Odegaard, Xhaka
    Saka, Martinelli

    Subs: Turner, Tierney, Holding, Tomiyasu, Vieira, Lokonga, Elneny, Marquinhos, Oyedeji

    And Wilson starts for the ‘Toon as bath predicted.

  24. 24
    Esso says:

    Subs: Turner, Tomiyasu, Holding, Tierney, Elneny, Lokonga, Vieira, Marquinhos, Butler-Oyedeji

  25. 25
    North Bank Ned says:

    Lightening fast Esso beats me to it, again.

  26. 26
    North Bank Ned says:

    First competitive call-up for Nathan Butler-Oyedeji, getting the nod ahead of Amario Cozier-Duberry.

  27. 27
    TTG says:

    Ned describes the loan facility impeccably . It is effectively what Barca have done and which attracted such criticism. We’ve only reserved the facility. It does suggest a very ambitious club

  28. 28
    scruzgooner says:

    baff, great preview, impeccable detail. i share your optimism about a win, i think the home advantage should make the difference. hopefully it’s nice weather there (relatively speaking) and the crowd will be loud and supportive.

    i am a tiny bit concerned about our defense against their rabble. i hope zinchenko remembers his defensive duties and saliba returns to his pre-WC rolls royce form.

    and isn’t that loan thing just robbing peter to pay paul? i mean, really. 😉

  29. 29
    Esso says:

    Poor so far. Ref’s not helping but we’re not at the races.

  30. 30
    Esso says:

    Would definitely take a draw the way this is going.

  31. 31
    Las says:

    Need a strong second half performance.
    I would take a 1-0 to The Arsenal

  32. 32
    bt8 says:

    They never had a scoring chance so organized we were. Always playing for the draw, the were. Take the point and move on.

  33. 33
    Esso says:

    0-0 is not a disaster in a game like that. They’re a big, ugly brutish side and will take plenty more points off others. Can see why they have best defensive record in the division but fuck me they’re boring to watch.

  34. 34
    North Bank Ned says:

    If that is the worst bump in the road we face, we’ll be alright. Howe will return up North with the point he came for. Disappointing not to win at home, but a draw is not a disaster.

  35. 35
    TTG says:

    Time for perspective .
    We were much the better side in a game against the third side .
    Burn’s foul on Gabriel was a stick-on penalty every day of the week .
    I thought Xhaka looked tired in midfield and we needed to find a way to free Martinelli who they boxed in well. I liked Nketiah’s performance. He worked his socks off
    Cm’on Chelsea on Thursday !

  36. 36
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yeah, agree with @31-34, would have been great to nick the 1-0 but on we go.

  37. 37
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers for a top preview Baff.

    I agree with what’s been written above about the game. VAR failing to give a penalty for Burns’ blatant foul will be something Howard Webb reviews in a few months time and tells his refs (behind closed doors) was a clear and obvious error. Not that that will help us much, but some nights you need a bit of luck and we got none tonight.

    Still, we played well, if not brilliantly, and were unlucky not to win. We will use this result as fuel, because in that dressing room they will be feeling the injustice of some of the decisions that went against us.

    A draw ain’t a terrible result. Especially one that galvanised the players.

  38. 38
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Also, any time in the last 5 years, this was the sort of match we would have lost one or two nil, probably receiving a red card (probably for Xhaka).

    The fact that we never really looked like losing it was a marker (of sorts) of how far we’ve come.

  39. 39
    bathgooner says:

    An extremely frustrating evening at TNHOF. We didn’t have the guile or power to win that game tonight against a team that was determined to take a point. Even Les Ferdinand thought that Burns pulling Gabriel down by his shirt was a clear penalty. That was a clear and obvious error and whoever the dickhead was in Stockley Park committed a criminal error.

    We were the better team and had we scored an early goal would have walked out winners. I was surprised that Newcastle weren’t more ambitious. It showed they didn’t believe that they could go toe to toe with us. Their attack was unimpressive and they were only really dangerous from corners.

    Newcastle produced more shithousery than I have seen in 90 minutes from a non-South American team and the net result of their time wasting from minute one was the stat that the ball was in play for only 53 minutes.

    Our front line worked their socks off and we were unlucky not to score. Ødegaard wasn’t quite as magisterial as in the last two games and his shooting was execrable. Partey eclipsed him today. The defence did their jobs without any dramas.

    An 11 day rest now for nearly all those players.

  40. 40
    bathgooner says:

    Good post-match interview from MA8:

    “So proud of the team.”

    Just lacked the final ball.”

    “Two scandalous penalties!”

    “Newcastle didn’t come to play this way. They haven’t played this way in any game this season. It was our players’ dominance that made them play this way.”

  41. 41
    ClockEndRider says:

    I think Pulis-Howe will be immensely proud of his Stokechester United team.

  42. 42
    Ollie says:

    Agree, bath at 38. Also what Marr said about 31-34.

    C100 I am indeed coming over for the United match, overnighting it on the Sunday.

  43. 43
    Ollie says:

    Marr? Sorry Johnny but I meant Matt.

  44. 44
    ClockEndRider says:

    re my point at 40 above. I meant Stokecastle United. Slightly barmy due to a high temp and a cold which prevented me from going last night. Its been a long night….!

  45. 45
    scruzgooner says: