NUFC Opponent Report – Newcastle’s Monday night visit to the Boleyn Ground

Words by Rob Saunders – you can follow him on Twitter @RobSaunders9.

As the international break goes away and league football returns it always feels like the rain stops and the rainbow appears in the sky. It’s even better when your favourite team comes out of the monotonous 10 days without an injury to one of their key men. For both of these sides, there are a number of talking points in which to add a bit of flavour to Monday nights fixture: West Ham United v Newcastle United.

The main storyline going into this game sees Steve McClaren head to London in search of revenge as he goes up against Slaven Bilic once more. Bilic, the manager of the Croatia side to stop England – at the time managed by McClaren – from qualifying for Euro 2008, gaining McClaren the ‘wally with a brollie’ nickname for years to come. Seven years later, people still feel the need to mention this above the football. So, let’s mention the football.

West Ham began this season earlier than any Premier League club, entering the Europa League Qualifying stages via the Fair Play award. Europa League Qualifying – the more boring way of saying ‘Intertoto Cup’ – took West Ham to Andorra and Romania 6 weeks before they could think about Premier League football. This allowed the Hammers to prepare for the season, but didn’t allow a lot of time to regroup and get some rest before the last season at the iconic Upton Park. Losing in Europe may have been an annoyance for the fans; who had seen the club come so close and risk injuries and fatigue by starting so early in the season, only to see their team crash out. However, this season without Europe will certainly be seen as a blessing for Bilic in his first season in the English Continue reading NUFC Opponent Report – Newcastle’s Monday night visit to the Boleyn Ground

NUFC Opponent Report: Analysing Arsenal’s trip to Tyneside

Words by Rob Saunders – you can follow him on Twitter @RobSaunders9.



Newcastle United vs Arsenal – 29th August 2015; St. James’ Park – BT Sport 1 – 12:45.

Before the season began, Arsenal were being touted as title favourites and with the squad and staff at their disposal, there was no reason to dispute that. Having signed Petr Cech from rivals Chelsea, a position that has weakened Arsenal season after season had been sorted. However, with the experienced goalkeeper being the only acquisition to date, and with Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to delve too deep in to the transfer market, cracks have again started to show for the Gunners.

Their performances this season have done nothing to suggest this will be the year Arsenal reclaim the title from Mourinho’s Chelsea, and fans are seen once again clambering for new faces before the transfer window shuts. Against West Ham, their defence was as fragile as ever, and their new £11 million man between the sticks had a case of first-night nerves – being at fault for one if not both of the goals in a 2-0 defeat. There were positives a week later, as Arsenal did what they often struggle to do; beat a lower side away from home; Arsenal wining 2-1, with Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil shining to stop the tactically astute (!) Alan Pardew and his Crystal Palace side.

Things were looking up for Arsenal, too. They hosted Liverpool next and with Brendan Rodgers’ side looking shaky up front, fans were confident of getting all three points. However, the first half was a nightmare for Arsenal, defensively poor and lacking promise up-front, had Petr Cech to thank for keeping them at 0-0 with the keeper getting over his nightmare debut with a string of fantastic saves. The second half was better, but still not good enough and Arsene Wenger has admitted his side has been ‘very average’ thus far.

However, Arsenal have arguably the best midfield in the league and one of the best in Europe. Attacking midfielders Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all have the ability to turn a game on its head, with Sanchez doing so many times last year to help Arsenal to finish 3rd in the league. With Ozil and Sanchez likely to be deployed on either wing, Newcastle’s defence will have to put in a similar performance to the one at Old Trafford a week previous.

Another plus for Arsenal is the way they play. Patient build-up play, silky passing and quick attacking movement makes it hard to stop them when in full flow. If Newcastle were to defend like they did against Continue reading NUFC Opponent Report: Analysing Arsenal’s trip to Tyneside