Arsenal are in better shape than the last time they went to Newcastle

Arsenal will be hoping for a much more positive display than the last time they went to St James Park.

Cast your minds back to the first day of last season when Arsenal travelled to the North East and gained a less than inspiring point against a Newcastle team that would finish fifth, the place Arsenal are hoping to avoid this time round.

The match finished 0-0 on that occasion when both sides shaped up with very different teams to the sides which will meet for the important clash on the final Sunday of the current season.

Joey Barton was playing in that game in 2011 and needless to say he was booked during the course of the match. He’s subsequently changed clubs twice since that match and not a lot of Newcastle fans would take him back.

Demba Ba was also present in that side, in the early days of making himself a short term legend with Newcastle supporters before heading off for the new challenge of Stamford Bridge.

The other really interesting change from that side is the case of Danny Simpson who started that match against Arsenal, but now can’t get anywhere near the first team with Mathieu Debuchy holding the right back slot for the side.

Two of the most interesting changes from the line-ups two years ago come from Arsenal because both Alex Song and Robin Van Persie played in that 0-0 draw.

Song went on to join Barcelona while Van Persie completed a big money move to Manchester United last summer. They were departures which apparently made Arsenal substantially weaker.

However, the Gunners find themselves in the position where if they win this weekend, they will secure fourth place and repeat their league finish from last time round which shows they haven’t really missed those players as much as they think.

Arsene Wenger will be hoping for a little more discipline from his side this time round, as five players were booked and Gervinho was sent off the last time these sides met in this fixture.

However, Newcastle won’t benefit from having Barton in the side, running around causing chaos and winding up the opposition so Arsenal shouldn’t really have a problem keeping a lid on things.

Looking at the two teams now, compared to where they were at the start of the 2011/2012 season, Arsenal look to be in just as strong a position and there is even a good argument that besides from Song, their midfield looks much stronger going into this match.

They have of course missed Van Persie but Gervinho and Andrei Arshavin started in that 0-0 draw and who would take either of them over Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta or Theo Walcott?

Barton and Ba are the only notable absentees from the Newcastle side that played that day, which is a credit to the way Alan Pardew has kept his squad together and enhanced it despite the far inferior position Newcastle will finish in this season.

Are either side weaker or stronger than the same fixture last season?

image: © nyaa birdies perch

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