Newcastle United v Arsenal 

8pm, Monday 16th May ‘22, St James’ Park, Premiership, Live on SKYSports

Following another very public undressing in Manchester, Eddie will bring his boys back to SJP this Monday, for the final time this season.

May I take this opportunity to thank SKY for moving it to the graveyard shift time slot.  As there’s no more matches for months, it’s not like thousands of us wanted to go out on the celebratory hoy this Saturday with no worries about the peeve/graft equation. Pricks.

It’s been an uproarious few months, with only howkings off the very top teams to queer our Geordie pitch.  This fixture will see us go up against another upwardly mobile top 4 prospect in the Gunners. A tough task, undoubtedly; but not a ‘taking on the Death Star’ nightmare of Liverpool or City.

However, a glance at our form versus this lot makes for sorry reading.  I know we’ve not exactly been aping Real Madrid for the last generation, but, although on a higher plane than ourselves, the Gunners have been a bit on the av side themselves in more recent times.  Why is it then, we hardly ever beat them? In fact, scratch that; in suffering serial defeats at their hands, we rarely even lay a glove on them.  I don’t get it.

Arsène Wenger reinvented football with the pace and cunning of Henry up top, a massive, skilful, ‘nails’ centre mid pairing of Vieira and Petit. A mint custodian in Seaman, a back four (partially inherited) with the steel/organisation of Adams etc and then flair all over the shop with the likes of Pires, Bergkamp and (latter day wrong un), Overmars. FFS, we used to go toe to toe with this lot, and occasionally even get the odd win.

As Arsène went a bit long coat wearing-ly bonkers/self indulgent post ‘Invicibles’, reverting to having a team of Oompah-Loompahs like Wilshere and sheep hearts like Bellerin, the beatings only got worse for us.  Jesus, a 7-3 twatting happened once at the Emirates in Pardiola times.  More recently, I can only recall a Sir Matt Ritchie winner at the Gallowgate in 2017.  Apart from this ‘diamond in the rough’ it all looks a bit grim from a black & white perspective.

Our visitors began this campaign in a most alarming fashion, losing three off the belt.  Naturally, the denizens of Arsenal Fans TV simply took this completely in their stride with no expletive laced drama.  ‘He needs to fackin go, fam’ was the general consensus and loudly shouted by someone who has called himself ‘Troopz*’ but is really called Dave. Or something.  Mr DT (erm, Liam) vigorously agreed, just prior to be sent down for ex partner kidnappery.  Silly attention whores.

However, Mikel Arteta is beginning to turn the tide in North London. Apart from the odd aberration like the recent 0-3 no show at Selhurst Park (no, the fuckers won’t play like that on Monday) they’ve started to look a bit closer to the ‘real deal’ and despite an awful night in N17 on Thursday, are currently (just) in the box seat for CL qualification.

There’s a lot to like in their current side.  I do still feel they’re a bit light up top following the acrimonious departure of Aubameyang, but they have some real young talent starting to blossom.  Amongst others, Saka looks like he has the potential to become a great.  I’m also a particular fan of Ødegaard. Again, it’s relatively early days, but this kid looks a huge prospect.  They also have a real player on their hands in Martinelli.  He came off the bench when we played them down there and took the game further away from us, notching the second and causing general havoc.

Anyway, on to the Mags…..

Our last two fixtures have shown us how far we are behind the elite of English football.  I can live with that, though.  Liverpool and Man City are not only the best on our country, but possibly Europe too.  However, we could have been playing these final games in a league position akin to Burnley or Leeds, and that would have been an absolute nightmare.  Whilst it is unpleasant to watch someone you love get so systematically taken apart by great sides (in second gear), perspective is definitely required.

Had our current scenario been offered at the turn of the year, we’d have snapped hands off with glee, and probably gone down the ‘street party’ route there and then.  Eddie and the lads did such good work in the preceding months, that these final few fixtures have become glorified kick-abouts. Yeah, we want to win them, but hopefully this time next year, no one will be arsed whether we finished 14th or 10th.

I’m just overjoyed that we’re safe, and that for the first time in living memory we can approach a summer with the genuine hope of better things to come.

For the final time this campaign, it’s scoreline soothsayer time.  Hands up, I’ve had a mare this season.  This begs the question, what is the point of me persisting to pin the the tail on prediction donkey?  Problem is, it’s kind of integral to the plot. So, here goes….

Had our visitors avoided defeat in the North London derby, they’d be skipping into SJP on Monday evening.  However, they didn’t and they won’t.  You’d imagine that Spurs will beast Burnley on Sunday, and you can see them having to come here with a ‘shit or bust’ attitude.  This should make for an entertaining spectacle.

The Mags will be once more buoyed by a sell out, uber flagged up crowd and a good number of the team are playing for their futures.

The Gunners are suffering badly at the back having lost ex Brucie target, Holding (pfft) to a daft red and Gabriel; who left the field clutching his hamstring.  A half fit Ben White will probably have to be thrust into the fray.  They still have the talent to unpick us, and I think they will.

However, I reckon we’ll be able to get something out of this, so FWIW, I’m going to plump for 2-2, with Bruno G heavily involved.

That’s me done for ‘21/‘22.  Thanks for those of you who’ve read my musings over the past season, and in particular ‘cheers’ to chaps like @ToonTone100 who often write nice things about me.  As rare as its welcome! I shall leave you in the capable hands of CFM for the trip to Turf Moor.  Have a mint summer, and see you on the other side. HTL.

*Bugbear alert.

I recall a time when nicknames were bestowed by close friends, or in some cases, enemies.  The kid with the wonky stare didn’t decide to call himself ‘Isaiah’ (cos one eye’s higher than the other.) No. Someone noticed it, thought it was funny and ran with it. Then it stuck.

This is the way of the nickname.

You can’t tell me one of his pals suddenly went ‘You’re a top geez, fam. A real trooper, innit. Therefore, I’m now gonna call you Troops. But with a ‘z’. Like a fucking shit 90’s club.’  No. It just didn’t happen. He gave the name to himself and that is frankly unforgivable.

I mean, I would like to be known as ‘Ace’ or ‘Maverick’ from Top Gun. However, no one has noticed this rakishly daring side to my personality, so much to my chagrin it can’t exist.

Rant over.

Nick ‘Maverick’ Clark – @Clark5Nick