Six signings and even more departures have created a new identity for the club. But after the Premier League’s summer transfer window closed on Thursday evening, the focus now shifts from the front office to the pitch. It will be a tough first game for Arsenal as they travel to Newcastle United on Sunday.
Newcastle started their summer off painfully — as stated by our friends at Coming Home Newcastle.
The beloved Rafa “park the bus” Benitez’s departure to China’s Dilian Yifang was a heartbreak for the club he had done so much for. While his style of play is not the most enticing, the Iberian manager took Newcastle from the Championship to a Premier League mid-table side. You can’t argue results!
But reported spats with the unpopular owner Mike Ashley led to frustration for Benitez, and was a main reason for him moving east. Newcastle fans did not warmly welcome the hiring of Steve Bruce, who took over shortly after. Even Bruce admits that it will be “Difficult to follow Rafa”,
In addition to the managerial departure, Salomón Rondón followed Benitez to China as well. The Venezuelan number nine was [in my opinion] the best hold-up #9 in the Premier League last season. His ability to hold-up play while his team moved forward was second to none. Rondón developed good chemistry with players like Ayoze Perez (now a Leicester player), and he played a massive role last year as the Magpies finished well ahead of relegation spots.
But a new chapter now begins in Tyneside. Newcastle decided to be proactive instead in the market. They made some very exciting additions to fill the gaps left by Perez and Rondón.
Steve Bruce is now “excited” about Newcastle’s attack after landing two players in particular. Striker Joelinton’s £40m move from Hoffenheim will have high expectations as he puts on the number nine shirt. He won’t be as physical as Rondón, but he is a two-footed player who can move much quicker than his predecessor. Links have been drawn between Joelinton and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino. Allan Saint-Maximin’s £20m deal from Nice is the other big move Newcastle made. The 22 year-old French winger facilitated well for his French side before moving to Newcastle this summer.
Newcastle also welcome back Andy Carroll who has returned after leaving in 2011 for Liverpool. The new attacking force will hope to mesh well together as quickly as possible. But Arsenal will hope that there will be some growing pains for the Magpies on Sunday.
The front office did their job, and now it is time for Unai Emery to repay them. The Arsenal manager knows that the requirement is clear after the transfer window closed: Champions League football next season. The skill is now there to get to the top four, but the mentality of the club will need to be there for the entirety of the 2019/20 season.
For example: Arsenal have been atrocious in recent history both in away games AND on opening day. Since 2010, the Gunners have won only twice in their first game of the season (2-4-3) and both times came from behind late to win. Compounding that record with the raucous St. James’ Park on Sunday gives me some anxiety about another sluggish start.
But these are the kinds of fixtures that Arsenal need to start taking three points from if they want to get back to relevancy. A new looking squad may just be what Arsenal need to get going on the right foot. The signings who we can expect to debut tomorrow include Dani Ceballos and Nicolas Pepe. Arsenal’s site states that Pepe is still returning to full fitness after AFCON, so we are likely to see him as a substitute — if at all. Due to injuries, we may see Brazilian teenager Gabriel Martinelli come in as a substitute as well. I don’t see David Luiz playing tomorrow as he just arrived on deadline day, but he may be on the bench just in case.
In other team news, Ozil and Kolasinac will be left out of the squad after their run in with burglars last month. Lacazette is a game time decision as well with a knock. With those first team players out and factoring in the recent departures of a core group (Ramsey, Iwobi, Koscielny, etc.) — it will be interesting to see what Emery decides for the starting XI. How can the Spaniard get three points out of his team Sunday?
Head-to-head, Arsenal have recorded five wins and one defeat against Newcastle in their last six games dating back to 2015. It has been tight though, with each game was decided by one goal until the most recent 2-0 win last season. With Liverpool and Tottenham fixtures in match day three/four respectively, it will be vital for Arsenal to take six points (Sunday and next week against Burnley) to start the season before playing their rivals.
WHAT: Arsenal at Newcastle United
WHERE: St. James’ Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyneside
WHEN: Sunday, August 11th, 6:00 AM PT | 9:00 PM ET | 2:00 PM BT
US TV: NBCSN
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