Newcastle fans dreading Emirates visit
Newcastle head to the Emirates Stadium to play Arsenal on Monday night with even the most optimistic Geordies expecting nothing but defeat.
Newcastle have been woeful in 2014, struggling for goals but conceding plenty while Arsenal have not lost in their own back yard since the opening day of the season. The Gunners also have the equal best home defensive record in the league. Newcastle have only scored once in their past five games (they've lost every one of them) and haven't found the net on their travels for 270 minutes.
Last year's trip to North London was the stuff of nightmares for the travelling fans as their team conceded seven goals amid a run that saw only one win in six games -- this dreadful recent form is not a new thing under Alan Pardew. It has become the norm.
Defeat would extend an already-unwanted record number of consecutive defeats to six -- another negative record for Pardew. The manager is feeling the pressure and rightly so. In the build up to the game he commented that "When you lose five games in the Premier League, if you can't accept that there's going to be some speculation about your job, then you are not being realistic." Another thrashing will serve to ramp that pressure up even further.
Arsenal fans have been frustrated by a trophy "drought" of nine years. Newcastle fans have had to wait 50 years longer than that for domestic silverware and that won't change any time soon. When Newcastle owner Mike Ashley made his only public statement since buying the club -- when he put Newcastle up for sale back in 2008 -- he referenced the Gunners.
He said: "Arsenal is the shining example in England of a sustainable business model. It takes time. It can't be done overnight. Newcastle has therefore set up an extensive scouting system. We look for young players, for players in foreign leagues who everyone does not know about. We try and stay ahead of the competition. We search high and low looking for value, for potential that we can bring on and for players who will allow Newcastle to compete at the very highest level but who don't cost the earth."
And here we are six years later with his club still drifting through mediocrity, light years behind Arsenal. It could be argued that he has been successful at picking up some very good players for bargain prices but his choice of managers has been terrible and his decision to award Pardew an eight year contract was absolutely puzzling.
Arsenal progressed by recruiting Arsene Wenger, an exceptional coach who was ahead of his time upon appointment, while Ashley places his investment in the hands of a man who has previously been sacked by Charlton, Southampton and West Ham.
Another stark contrast between the two clubs is how they have operated in the transfer market. Arsenal have picked up value signings, lots of them, but they've always strengthened the core of the team with top signings too -- from Thierry Henry to Mesut Özil.
If Arsenal are underachieving while playing Champions League football every year I've no idea what the term is to describe Newcastle.
As for the game itself, Newcastle will be without Hatem Ben Arfa, who told the world through Instagram on Sunday that Pardew had left him at home. Ben Arfa is far from blameless in this situation but Pardew has consistently mishandled a player who is one of Newcastle's flair players when on form. Pardew prefers workmen like Yoan Gouffran and Jonas Gutierrez to fit into his 1990s footballing tactics.
Newcastle will miss Papiss Cisse and Davide Santon through injury while Luuk De Jong is also a doubt. They should have the French trio of Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko and Loic Remy back to start the game.
The bookmakers have Arsenal at around 1/4 while Newcastle are 11/1. That 11 should probably have a zero or two after it.