By Chris Harris
There's a new regime at St. James' Park and, with the exception of an almighty hiccup at Pride Park last week, Sam Allardyce's tenure has gone rather well so far.
Newcastle are fifth in the table, playing with confidence and, after a couple of seasons in which they have lacked firepower, now boast a quintet of quality strikers in Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins, Mark Viduka, Alan Smith and Shola Ameobi.
Of course, Allardyce loves pitting himself against Arsène Wenger. He enjoyed a number of battle royales with the Frenchman during his stint as Bolton manager and will relish the challenge of taking on Arsenal's talented team of youngsters. Then again, the young Gunners will relish the opportunity to knock over yet another top-flight side in the Carling Cup.
We spoke to Alan Oliver of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle ahead of tonight's game. Read on for his thoughts on a new-look Newcastle, the new boy who has impressed him, the pressure of facing Wenger's teenagers and his fondness for Emirates Stadium.
THE STORY SO FAR
"Things have gone OK. Sam Allardyce has brought a lot of players in so you'd expect them to need time to gel but apart from Derby things have gone excellent. Sam said he didn't expect a night like that at Derby but this is Newcastle so we all expect it. It wasn't a surprise. Over the past few years Newcastle can beat Arsenal and Manchester United at home but they've been vulnerable away from home, especially against lesser teams. But as Sam says this has all got to stop because this is a new team and a new regime. If they hadn't lost that game Newcastle would be up there with Arsenal. Newcastle have a few striking options now. If you are going to be a force in the Premier League you need four mainline strikers and Newcastle now have Owen, Martins, Viduka, Ameobi and Alan Smith can play there too."
"The Brazilian defender, Claudio Cacapa, has impressed me. He's come in from Lyon and he's been in the Champions League for past five years. Not many people had heard of him when he joined but, as Sam said, don't take that as a yardstick because this guy's a first-class defender. The boy David Rozehnal only cost 2.5 million, he's a Czech international and he's settled in very nicely. So much so that young Steven Taylor, who many Newcastle fans think is the best centre half at the club, is struggling to get into the side at the heart of the defence."
"I think you'll find there will be a few changes in the Newcastle side. Sam admitted that Michael Owen probably won't play while the boy Cacapa and Viduka are struggling. I think Sam's a wily old so-and-so and he might try and beat Wenger at his own game but playing some younger players who are tried and trusted. There will be changes though.
"From my point of view when Wenger puts his kids out I think it puts the opposition under tremendous pressure because no one wants to be beat off Arsenal's reserves. It happened two years ago to Newcastle when Wigan made 10 changes and they still won. That was the beginning of the end for Graeme Souness. Arsenal are different from Wigan but when I suggested to Sam that Wenger puts teams under pressure by doing this he said it's just people like me in the media who think that. Sam is under no illusions that tonight will be tough."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"I absolutely loved going to the Emirates last season. It's a fantastic stadium and it's hard to believe that there will be 60,000 people there tonight. Newcastle's tickets were snapped up straight away and my lad, who's also a journalist, he's been in Russia and he's been texting to make sure I've got him a ticket. Statistically this will be the biggest crowd Newcastle have played in front of in the League Cup apart from when they got to the Final against Manchester City in 1976 when there were 100,000 there."