Arsenal vs Newcastle: Newcastle offer stern test of Arsenal's depleted resources

Wenger has recalled Francis Coquelin from Charlton in response

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The Independent Football

Injuries, mutinous supporters, a scramble for fourth place and unseeded in the Champions League last 16. This season is turning out much like most recent seasons for Arsène Wenger who seems stuck in his personal Groundhog Day.

Today brings the visit of Newcastle United and Wenger would in this case welcome a repeat of last year, or the one before. The Magpies have been beaten 3-0 and 7-3 in their last two visits to the Emirates but arrive this time off the back of seven wins in nine games including last week’s defeat of Chelsea, the latter’s first of the season. They also have the benefit of a week’s rest whereas Arsenal have been to Istanbul and back, losing Aaron Ramsey to a hamstring injury in the process.

The Welsh midfielder will be out for at least three weeks, missing the busy Christmas programme, and Wenger recalled Francis Coquelin from Charlton Athletic in response. The Frenchman will be involved today, though not necessarily from the start. Injuries, notably the ongoing Achilles problem afflicting Laurent Koscielny, mean Wenger does have some difficult selection decisions, notably in defence, again.

 

Mathieu Debuchy is fit, after three months out, but with Calum Chambers suspended the right-back may have to play his former club at centre-half. “It will be a gamble, of course, but [whatever] solution I have to decide will not be ideal,” said Wenger, adding, “there is not a massive difference between right-back and centre-back.”

Per Mertesacker is among many defenders unlikely to agree with such a view, and there are few indications to date that Debuchy is as versatile as his predecessor as Arsenal’s right-back, Bacary Sagna.

Wenger’s critics would argue the need to consider playing Debuchy in the centre is a consequence of the manager’s failure to sign defensive cover during the summer, but that is unlikely to concern Wenger to judge from his dismissal of the travelling fans who crudely abused him at Stoke. 

“It is not my problem. My problem is to win football games,” he said. “I am not a politician who makes a poll every week to see if you support me. My sense is to focus on my job. My message to supporters? What is in the word ‘support’? Support. It says what it says.

“Do I hear it and feel it? Honestly you don’t think I will find 20 people who say that you are rubbish? Every week. Do they represent the majority of people? I don’t know but you have to win your football games, That’s all.”

As if to highlight Arsenal’s problems Newcastle, who trail Arsenal only on goal difference, have two key defenders, Fabricio Coloccini and Daryl Janmaat, fit to play.

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